Police have identified a man brandishing a knife and exhibiting signs of mental illness who was shot by a Hartford police officer Tuesday night in an incident that sent both the man and an officer to the hospital, authorities said.
Hartford Police Officer Tyrell Jenkins shot Tyrinde Mason Thompson, 22, of Hartford, while responding to a 7:52 p.m. call on Tuesday from the city's Mobile Crisis Unit of the Department of Mental Health Services about a reported emotionally disturbed person with a mental illness who was acting up, police said at a news conference Wednesday. Thompson is listed in critical but stable condition, police said.
"I'm upset! I'm totally upset with this," Thompson's grandmother, Lonnie Mason said, telling NBC Connecticut that her grandson is mentally ill and that she wishes the situation had been handled differently.
"All you had to do was wrestle that boy to the ground," Lonnie Mason said.
Officers responded to the call at 102 Andover Street, police said. Officers got there a couple minutes later. Officer Gary Benway, Officer Hector Morales and Officer Jenkins were among the responding officers.
Police confronted Thompson in his front yard, but he soon ran. A foot chase ensued and three police officers cornered him on the driveway of 144 Westminster Street Palm Street and he hid behind a trash can. Then he displayed one knife in each hand, including a large butcher knife. Police told him to put down his weapons, but instead he pushed a trash can onto Jenkins and lunged at him wielding the knives. Officer Jenkins deployed a stun gun before firing at Thompson about three times, hitting him at least once in the torso, police said. He was the only officer who fired and it's unclear if the stun gun had an effect.
Hartford Police Chief James Rovella said Jenkins has been on the job at the department for about three years and has had no citizen complaints against him or any administrative disciplinary history. Officers had a matter of minutes to decide how to act in the incident.
Jenkins was transported to St. Francis Hospital to be treated for a broken bone in his left hand near his thumb. Police said Jenkins may have gotten the injuries from falling during the incident. Jenkins is currently out on injury, but when he returns to duty, he will be placed on administrative leavy, as is protocol in Hartford for any officer involved in a shooting.
Thompson was taken to St. Francis Hospital to be treated for the gunshot wound.
Police recovered at least three knives, including one that was concealed and found with his belongings at the hospital.
"I want to reassure the community and everyone that we're doing everything to make sure that everyone is informed as to what is going on," Mayor Pedro Segarra said at the news conference, adding that he had spoken with community members and police and that he intends to speak with the family. "...Right now our main concern is with the well-being of the victim and the officers and the community. As I said over and over, when things like this happen, it affects all of us and it affects our entire community. And I know that the chief and members of our community have been in contact with the family and that is important that we continue this dialogue and that we check on our neighbors and that we communicate as effectively as possible."
Police played the 911 calls for the press at a news conference. The crisis center employee who called told police that they received a call from the mother and that Thompson had a history of running away when crisis center staff had gone there in the past. They requested a police escort.
Rovella said police do have mental health training.
There was a large police presence at St. Francis Hospital outside the emergency department on Tuesday night, where there were at least 15 police cars visible. It's unknown whether they were there because of the shooting incident.
With tensions rising across the country between police and residents, police said the investigation will be handled in such a way as to avoid a conflict of interest.
"Presently on scene are state attorneys inspector, I've been in touch with state attorney from Hartford County," Rovella said on Tuesday night. "The state attorney will assign a Western District Major Crime Squad."
Palm and Westminster streets were closed for hours as police investigated, but the roads have since reopened.
Police said there are three separate investigations. State police major crimes detectives from the western division are handling the investigation into the officer discharging his gun. Hartford Police Department's internal affairs division is also doing an internal investigation and the department is determining whether to take any criminal action against Thompson for coming after the police officers, police said.
Thompson has no criminal history, police said.
Hartford police have also asked the Hartford state's attorneys office to investigate the non-fatal shooting involving a police officer firing a gun to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, Rovella said.
Any further information on the police-involved shooting will come from state police and Hartford police will release any updates on any criminal investigation into Thompson and any administrative information, Rovella said.