Police say recent shooting highlights the need for mental health advocate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Charleston man continues his recovery after he was shot last week by Charleston Police Department officers. Denaul Dickerson was armed with a knife when police arrived and refused commands to put it down. When he went after an officer with the knife, he was shot.

Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt said those were the unfortunate circumstances and erroneous reports on social media about the case aren’t helpful.

“Social media immediately jumped off with a lot of misinformation. The subject was not shot in the back. The subject was armed with a knife. The subject was not retreating, he was lunging toward our officers with that knife in hand,” Hunt explained to MetroNews affiliate WCHS-AM on Monday.

Hunt and his staff addressed the matter as quickly as possible and released body camera footage of the incident as soon as it could be made available Friday afternoon.

“The transparency we strive for with the Charleston Police Department and Mayor (Amy) Goodwin’s office, just four hours, I don’t know anywhere else in the nation that has gotten the bodycam footage out that quickly. We just wanted to get that information to folks in Charleston,” Hunt said.

Matt Sutton, Chief of Staff to Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin echoed the chief’s sentiment about being transparent with information in the investigation.

“We’ve been extremely transparent since we got here. It wasn’t a question of ‘if” we were going to put the video out, it was when we could physically get it out and we did it as soon as we physically could,” Sutton said on the show.

A protest Sunday lamented the use of deadly force and said the city police officers lacked tasers as an option.

Although not every Charleston officer is equipped with a taser, Chief Hunt refuted claims they weren’t in use. He said at the time of the shooting an officer was armed with a taser and was moving into position to deploy the tool as an alternative to a firearm when the Dickerson took an aggressive posture and came at them.

“It is taught nationwide that officers should have a firearm ready to be able to respond should the less lethal option fail, because tasers do fail at times. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the case with this one,” he said.

Hunt and Sutton both lamented the situation and called it another incident that showed a great need for mental health treatment in the city. A new member of the city staff will specialize in mental health and would have been used as part of this incident had they been on duty then. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case since they started on the job today.

“The lack we’ve seen of mental health options, law enforcement is the encounter these folks who need help most often see. That’s just the sad nature of it. Hopefully, we can use this a segue into how can we get better help folks,” Hunt said.