Family Still Awaits Justice for Desmond Phillips, Mentally Ill Man Killed by Chico Police

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Editor’s note: Although Steve DuBois is not a trained journalist, he is a lay writer, and one of ANewsCafe.com’s regular photography contributors.

Steve was so deeply moved by the news of Desmond Phillips’ death last year that he felt compelled to reach out to the Phillips family. His goal was to write what he learned about Desmond, a 25-year-old man who suffered from mental illness and who was fatally shot by a pair of Chico police officers on March 17, 2017. The evening started with Desmond’s father’s 911 call for mental-health assistance at his small Chico apartment. The evening ended with Desmond dead, shot at least 10 times by two officers. 

As Steve put it, “You might remember this story, or maybe you never heard about Desmond. We often hear about tragedies, but we rarely hear about the victims.”

The more Steve learned about the night Desmond was killed, and the way in which he was killed, the more troubled he felt. To Steve’s knowledge, Desmond did not have a criminal record, although family had made 911 calls for medical/mental health assistance with Desmond in the past.

Steve wanted to know more about Desmond the man, before the shooting. 

Steve searched the internet for stories about Desmond’s death. He made a few trips to Chico for this story. He spoke by phone several times with Desmond’s father, David Phillips, and in person with Desmond’s 18-year-old nephew, Chad Ingram. The Phillips family described Desmond as yes, mentally troubled, but also a brilliant, beloved young man with a great sense of humor and a kind heart. Steve heard one story after another about Desmond’s generous heart, how he fed the homeless, and gave freely to those in need. 

Included in Steve’s story are excerpts from the media briefing by Chico Police Chief and Butte County District Attorney Michael L. Ramsey.

Below this story you’ll also find a series of links about Desmond’s death, including those published by ChicoSol, and an opinion piece by Dave Waddell,  ChicoSol’s news editor.

Desmond Phillips

Desmond Phillips

David Phillips made the announcement that he would seek an independent investigation into the death of his son, Desmond Phillips, shot to death by Butte County law enforcement on March 17, 2017.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra affirmed that an investigation would be underway, one that would be independent of the influence of Butte County law enforcement or District Attorney Ramsey.  Attorney General Becerra stated he would personally oversee this case.

Before this announcement by Becerra, Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey determined that the two officers named in the shooting, Jeremy Gagnebin and Alex Fliehr, were justified in shooting Desmond.

Since Ramsey would not charge the officers, David Phillips and his Justice For Desmond team appealed to the state to seek justice with capital murder charges against the officers.  David Phillips has had various meetings during the last year with his lawyer John Burris, and an ACLU  representative, and Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

In that meeting David Phillips presented evidence that there may have been more than two officers who shot his son.  Two photos were shown at the press release related to that evidence.  One photo was of a shell casing found by the family dog after Desmond was shot.

Police evidence showed Desmond was shot 16 times by the two officers who emptied both their guns, and that all those casings were accounted for, which corroborated their report. But the Justice for Desmond team believed that this 17th bullet casing – found by the family dog – proved multiple guns were used.

Also, officers claimed Desmond came after them when the taser they used didn’t work properly, which they explained is why, when Desmond lunged at them, officers opened fire.  But the second photo presented at the press conference  showed that the only blood splatter was on the wall about one foot above the floor where Desmond landed after being tased.  A photo showed an air compressor on the floor to help illustrate the wall height.

Mr. Phillips said that when Desmond was shot, the father crawled on the floor toward his son as the last bullets were fired.  The elder Phillips said that he saw with his own eyes that Desmond was falling from the taser as the bullets were fired at his son. That’s why Phillips’ father claims that what happened to his son was murder, an action he also believes was racially motivated.

March 2018 update

Desmond Phillips’ father, David Phillips, has twice met with California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with John Burris, the famed civil rights lawyer.

The most recent meeting with Becerra and several investigators was on Feb. 22. However, the elder Phillips has been advised to hold off on disclosing anything about those meetings yet.

Several months ago Phillips said that the Justice for Desmond team has facts and evidence that disprove all of Ramsey’s previous claims. Because of that, Phillips believes that the Justice for Desmond case is “rock solid”. However, Phillips said that Becerra cautioned him to wait for a recommendation regarding whether or not charges will be brought against the officers who shot Desmond.

But, Desmond’s father said Becerra told him that an official finding could be a few weeks away. Because of this communication from Becerra, Phillips said he’s feeling “quite positive –  as long as everyone does their job”.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, in honor of Desmond Phillips, and to commemorate his life and the one-year anniversary of his death, family, friends and supporters will hold an event at the One Mile Picnic Area in Bidwell Park from 2 to 4 p.m. The gathering will include a barbecue, music, and people who will speak about Desmond and his death.

Today, a few days before the one-year-anniversary of Desmond Phillps’ death, Steve Dubois tells the story of how Phillips died. His goal is to keep this story alive to ensure justice for Desmond Phillips.

Desmond Phillips seflie via Facebook.

Desmond Phillips in a selfie posted on his Facebook page.

 St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2017 – The Night Desmond Phillips Died

On March 17, 2017, Chico police officers fatally shot Desmond Phillips, a 25-year-old black man who suffered from mental illness. The shooting happened inside the living room of a small single-level Chico apartment, a home Desmond shared with his father and two nephews.
Sixteen shots were fired, hitting Desmond in the face and chest. At least two bullet holes remain in the Phillips’ living room wall, reminders of the night they lost Desmond.

Two of the bullets that went through Desmond entered the adjacent apartment and damaged a TV and microwave oven. One of those bullets continued on and passed through yet another wall and blew through a hanging shirt before lodging in the wall above a bed.

A petition on Organizefor.com collected about 40,000 signatures that demanded that the officers who killed Desmond would be fired and charged with the killing. The petition was addressed to the Chico Police Department, the Butte County Grand Jury and California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra with the request.

Here’s how the Organizefor site told the story of the night Desmond died:

The Chico 911 dispatch, Chico Police, and Chico Behavioral Health Department were familiar with Desmond’s background and had successfully taken him in for mental health treatment twice before. On March 17 the first responders who arrived at David’s apartment removed Desmond’s headphones and sunglasses which is how he was coping with the crisis he was in. When he became agitated in response, the first responders called in the police. The police arrived at the scene with a non-lethal beanbag gun and shield, but those things were never used. When Desmond saw the police he panicked and locked the front door. The police broke down the door, tased him and within seconds Officers Gagnebin and Fliehr fired 16 shots total from their two semi-automatic handguns.

According to Desmond’s father, David Phillips, on March 17, 2017, he placed a 911 call for mental health assistance for his son, Desmond, who was having what the elder Phillips referred to as one of his son’s “episodes”. The elder Phillips was hoping for some kind of medical intervention to help Desmond.

Desmond Phillips via Facebook, December, 2015.

Desmond Phillips via Facebook, December, 2015.

As an aside, some Phillips family members said Desmond had epilepsy, which may have been linked to what they thought of as one of Desmond’s “episodes”.  Either way, they described a transformed Desmond – incoherent, sometimes eyes closed or unfocused, or, for lack of a better term, just “zoned out”. They said that during these episodes Desmond had difficulty identifying the current time, place and his location. They said it was almost as if he were sleepwalking.

In addition to those episodes is what the Phillips family said was Desmond’s PTSD that stemmed from an earlier police beating in Sacramento that was so severe that Desmond was hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

One nephew said that the police beating followed an incident where law enforcement found an unresponsive Desmond, praying while lying in a fetal position near the railroad tracks, and police used force to remove him from the area.

After Desmond was discharged from the Sacramento hospital his father brought Desmond home to Chico to live with him and recover from his injuries.

Phillips said his thinking, when he called 911 the night of March 17, 2017, was for medics to come and possibly administer tranquilizing medications to help Desmond calm down, or perhaps they would even take Desmond to the hospital for observation and care. The medics arrived, but when Desmond was uncooperative, they called the police.

The situation turned violent. Rather than assisting the medics’ attempts to calm Desmond so he could receive medical care, the officers fatally shot Desmond multiple times.

When I contacted Mr. Phillips, he talked about what happened the night police killed Desmond. He said that despite how the Chico police justified their force against Desmond – to supposedly protect the Phillips family inside the apartment – at no time did any of them – the father and his grandsons, including Chad Ingram- feel threatened. Phillips called 911 because it was clear to him that his son was in the state of a mental health emergency, and he needed professional help for Desmond beyond what he and Desmond’s family could provide.

Phillips said that the “help” from officers included tasing Desmond twice, and when that didn’t subdue him, the police “unloaded” their guns into Desmond’s body. He said Desmond died on the family’s living-room floor.

Mr. Phillips recalled how, on the night of the shooting, he was in the bedroom when he heard the police break down the front door, and then heard as Desmond was tased. Phillips said at that point he immediately came out of the bedroom and saw his son’s body “locked up” from being tased, and that his son was falling.  Phillips said there was an officer beside the bedroom door he’d just exited. Phillips said that as he came out of the bedroom and saw Desmond falling, the shooting began instantly. Phillips said that when he saw his son begin to fall, the father dropped to the floor and began crawling toward Desmond.

As Phillips recounted this part of the story, he sobbed and stopped to collect himself before he could finish telling what happened next. He regained his composure and said that he knew as he was crawling toward his son that Desmond was already dead.

In the aftermath of the shooting, in horror and disbelief, Phillips said he yelled, “I called for ya’ll to help.  You killed my son!”

Phillips said he doesn’t care what the police or district attorney claim. Phillips said he saw with his own eyes that the Chico police officers murdered his son.  Still crying as he spoke, Phillips said there was nothing he could do to help his son after the officers arrived.

Phillips said police left one shell behind, found later by the family dog.

At the funeral home in Sacramento, Phillips said he spoke with man who’d embalmed Desmond, who told Phillips that 16 shots went through Desmond’s body.

Desmond Phillips

Before the Shooting

Phillips said he was a single dad for 13 years, but there was a period of about four to five years when Desmond lived with his mother. Phillips said that when Desmond was about 17, Desmond moved to Sacramento to live with his girlfriend, who he’d met at church. Phillips said Desmond was still living in Sacramento when the beating by police took place.  At the time Desmond worked for a clothing store.

Phillips said it was important to him that people knew that Desmond was a religious and humble person, someone who prayed a lot.  And when he was praying, Desmond didn’t like to be disturbed, to the point where he wouldn’t respond to his father if he interrupted Desmond during prayer.  The elder Phillips said that whenever Desmond felt the need to pray, he would just pray. He told the story of the night when Desmond lived in Sacramento and he was in prayer outside, somewhere near the Sacramento Light Rail. When Desmond prayed, he bent over into almost a fetal position.  Phillips said officers approached Desmond, who was in his usual prayer position, but he wouldn’t respond.

Phillips said that when his son wouldn’t respond, officers started beating Desmond. One thing Phillips said that Desmond remembered from that beating was his face being slammed into rocks. Phillips said that according to Desmond, the police then took him to their vehicle where they continued to beat him even more.

Phillips said his son was beaten so badly that at first officers didn’t know if they’d killed him, so they had him admitted to a hospital where he was placed in the intensive care unit. According to Phillips, the Sacramento beating of his son resulted in kidney and liver damage, as well as head trauma.

Meanwhile, while Desmond was in the ICU, his girlfriend and family were trying to figure out where Desmond was. They eventually found him after calling around to area hospitals. Phillips said that the entire time Desmond was in the ICU, police wouldn’t let anyone in the family see Desmond, not even his father.

When Desmond was released from the ICU he was arrested and taken to jail for resisting arrest. The elder Phillips was then able to bail him out.  Phillips said that Desmond had never had a problem with police before the Sacramento incident.

Phillips said he took Desmond to Chico so he’d feel safer there.  And he said Desmond did feel safe in Chico. But as time went on Phillips said that Desmond began showing problems, such as short-term memory loss. That’s when Phillips took Desmond to doctors who diagnosed Desmond with PTSD.  Various doctors were recommended to treat Desmond. In fact, Desmond had a medical appointment scheduled in Roseville two weeks after his death.

Desmond lived with his father approximately seven months before the Chico shooting that ended Desmond’s life.  During that time Desmond joined a church in Chico and had three jobs; two were with temporary agencies and the other job was home care, personally taking care of Phillips.

At this point in the story Phillips was sobbing. Phillips said Desmond always stayed humble and never got involved in any arguing.  Phillips called Desmond his Angel, his Baby, his King.

After the shooting police handcuffed Desmond and his body was taken to Enloe Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

The Police Version of the Night They Shot Desmond Phillips

The day after the shooting, Chico Police Chief Michael O’Brien and Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey held a media briefing. During the briefing O’Brien said that on March 17, 2018, Desmond’s father called 911 because his son was having a mental-illness episode. O’Brien said the elder Phillips hoped emergency responders would give his son medication to calm him since he was acting erratically. According to O’Brien, the trouble began when firefighters arrived and attempted to communicate verbally with Desmond, who was “hostile” – dancing in the living room in a “trance-like state” and wearing headphones and sunglasses.

Ramsey said Desmond would not leave with the medics, and “suddenly became animated with punches and swings of his arms and hands” as medics attempted to touch him.

That’s when medical responders removed themselves from the Phillips home and contacted police dispatch. When officers arrived, they directed Desmond’s father into one back bedroom and Desmond’s two nephews in another bedroom, which officers said was for protection from Desmond’s erratic behavior.

Officers said they saw Desmond pacing in the small living room area as he held two knives. The officers said they tried to communicate with Desmond to calm him down, but without success. The officers said that as they attempted to diffuse the situation, Desmond slammed the front door closed so officers couldn’t see what was occurring inside.

That’s when the situation escalated.

District Attorney Ramsey said officers heard that Mr. Phillips made another 911 call saying that he feared that Desmond would stab his father if Desmond broke down the door where the elder Phillips was hiding. The officers said at that point they believed there was an imminent threat to the elder Phillips and his two grandchildren.

(Phillips contradicts that statement. He said that at no time did either he or his grandchildren – including 19-year-old Chad Ingram – feel threatened by Desmond.  Phillips said he and his family knew that Desmond was having an episode and just needed help.)

Officers said they broke open the front door to protect those inside. According to the officers who entered the apartment, once they were inside the small home, Desmond was adjacent to the door and in very close proximity to them.

(Side note: According to Ramsey at another briefing, the two officers who shot Desmond had also responded to a 911 mental health call for help from David Phillips about his son in December of 2016, so this was not their first encounter with Desmond Phillips.)

Chief O’Brien said that Desmond was aggressive, while swinging his arms in a windmill fashion as he rapidly approached the officers. O’Brien said Desmond held a knife in one hand and part of the broken door jam in the other as he approached the officers. O’Brien said the officers tased Desmond, but with minimal effect. Chief O’Brien said Desmond got to his feet and began to slash at the officers before a second taser attempt could occur. Within seconds the officers discharged their weapons and Desmond fell to the floor.

Medics at the scene then gave medical attention to Desmond. At the time of the shooting, Chico police officers hadn’t yet begun to wear body cameras, so there’s no video of the incident.

It was later reported that the officers fired their weapons a total of 16 times, and of those 16 shots, 10 struck Desmond Phillips.

Desmond’s Father’s Version

David Phillips said he talked to someone at the coroner’s office who said 16 shots fired by the Chico police officers hit Desmond in the chest and face.

Phillips said Desmond died on the family’s living-room floor, and that after the shooting, Desmond’s still body was handcuffed and taken to Enloe Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Phillips believes the death of his son was racially motivated by police who already knew Desmond was mentally ill, a fact known by law enforcement as they’d responded to 911 calls for help with his mentally ill son on two previous occasions.

Phillips said that his 911 call was an attempt to get help for his son, not to have him killed.

Chad’s story

Nineteen-year-old Chad Ingram is Desmond’s nephew. He was at the Phillips apartment the night Desmond was killed. Ingram said he heard everything, and after the shooting, his grandfather David Phillips told him what he saw.

Last year, Ingram spoke with me from the front room where he said his Uncle Desmond had once played video games, joked with family and loved having fun. This was also the room in which Desmond lost his life.

Two bullet holes remained visible in the wall near where Ingram was seated. He said he was still overcome with grief and horrific memories of the night his uncle died.

Ingram said he looked up to Desmond, and wanted to be like him. Ingram said he felt proud when people said he sounded like his Uncle Desmond, or that he seemed like his uncle. He said Desmond was like a “big brother” – and that Desmond would say Ingram was like the younger brother he never had. (Desmond was the youngest of four). Ingram said he was willing to follow his uncle into whatever endeavor he pursued.

Ingram said Desmond was interested in a career in engineering, or creating video games.

“He was a smart guy,” Ingram said.

Ingram had a deep admiration for Desmond, whose nickname was Bubba – though nobody could recall how the name got started.

Ingram described Desmond as someone who was humble, quiet and never raised his voice. Ingram said Desmond had a strong belief in and relationship with God. Desmond played basketball and loved music so much that he sang with the church choir and traveled to places around the world singing with the choir. Ingram said singing was one of Desmond’s biggest gifts of all. But Ingram said he believed his uncle’s greatest gift was his heart. He said Desmond had a deep love for not just family, but most people in general.

“If Desmond had known the police officers who shot him, he would’ve loved them, too,” Ingram said. “His love for everyone was the best part. Desmond warmed up the room and brightened the day.”

Ingram said Desmond was loving to others, and that he was kind and treated everyone well. Desmond liked to help others, too. If someone needed money and asked for $20, Desmond gave $40, if he had it. If all he had was change in his pockets, he’d give all he had to someone in need.

Ingram laughed sadly when he mentioned the time he helped his uncle look for his misplaced phone, and when Ingram found it, his uncle gave him money as a token of his gratitude.

Desmond had a good sense of humor, liked to laugh, and was a practical joker. Ingram said Desmond loved shoes. Ingram said although his uncle wasn’t the conceited type, he liked dressing in a way that he wouldn’t be considered a thug. He wasn’t into ‘sag’ pants. And he didn’t walk in a way to get attention. In fact, Desmond wore glasses and embraced the ‘nerd’ look.

Desmond Phillips via Facebook.

Desmond Phillips via Facebook.

Ingram said Desmond tried to look professional, was an honest person, and never had so much as a parking ticket.

Desmond played by the rules to the point where, when the nephew and his uncle played video games, such as “Grand Theft Auto” – Desmond wouldn’t break the game’s rules, even when it was allowed. If they were on a mission in the game to kill someone, Desmond couldn’t kill anyone. If a car could be hijacked, Desmond couldn’t do it. Ingram had to do it for him.

Despite the obvious pain Ingram still suffers over the loss of his uncle and the extreme and violent way in which his uncle died, Ingram did not express anger, or the need for revenge. Ingram’s wish, other than that his uncle had never died, was that one day justice would come for Desmond.

Ingram talked about the night his uncle died. He said that when paramedics first responded to his grandfather’s 911 call for help with Desmond, Ingram was in his bedroom with his 12-year-old brother. His grandfather had told them that their Uncle Desmond was having “an episode” and to go to their room.

Ingram said he was later told that when medics arrived, Desmond was playing video games, so the medics removed Desmond’s headphones and tried to grab his arm so they could take him to the hospital. He was told that Desmond pulled back, because he said he didn’t want to go, and that’s when the responders then called police. When police arrived, the front door was open, but the screen door was closed. Ingram said he looked out his bedroom window and saw officers – weapons drawn – wearing riot gear. One officer had a shield. Ingram was later told that the officer holding the shield thought the space in the apartment was too small to enter with it.

Ingram said he was told by his grandfather, David Phillips, that one officer went around behind the ground-floor apartment and broke through a fence. The family dog started barking, so the officer tazed the dog.

During the media briefing Chief O’Brien said that officers claimed that when Desmond closed the door, they couldn’t see inside. Officers said they believed the elder Phillips and his two grandchildren were in imminent danger, so they broke the front door open to allow law enforcement entry into the apartment.

Ingram said one officer that had been out back then entered through the kitchen. When multiple officers were inside, Desmond was confronted and tased. Seconds later the shooting occurred.

Ingram said that despite the officers’ version – that they reacted as forcefully as they did because Desmond’s family was in danger – Ingram said he, his brother and grandfather never feared for their lives, nor felt in any danger nor fear of Desmond. Ingram said he can’t understand why, if the officers truly believed the grandfather and grandsons were in imminent danger, why hadn’t the officers simply removed the three from the apartment through bedroom windows to safety? Had officers done that, there would have been plenty of time to calm Desmond down and help – not kill him.

Ingram said Desmond – as a mentally ill citizen – deserved the police officers’ help, not harm.

Immediately inside the Phillips apartment, there’s a narrow passageway between a wall and the back of a couch. And that couch faces another couch on the opposite wall with approximately 3-4 feet between them. It was that opposite wall that displayed the two bullet holes.

Ingram said when the officers broke open the front door, it probably triggered something in Desmond with his PTSD from his earlier encounters with Sacramento police, which escalated the situation.

Ingram said that when his uncle had episodes, sometimes his eyes would close and he’d “zone out” and Desmond would have trouble knowing where he was or what was happening — that he almost appeared to be sleepwalking.

Both Ingram and David Phillips told me the officers knew Desmond had a mental illness due to previous calls. Ingram said the entire way the evening ended was completely avoidable and unnecessary.

District Attorney Ramsey countered this point, saying David Phillips himself had said during a 911 call that Desmond had tried to stab him and that he and his grandchildren could not leave the rooms. “He’s trying to stab me now. Come through the window,” David Phillips was reported saying during the last 911 call. But Mr. Phillips says he wanted the police to help his son.

You don’t have to stand next to Mr. Phillips to know and see his pain. You can clearly hear it in his voice over the phone. During our first call, I mentioned I heard that Desmond liked to join his father to help feed the homeless. Phillips said that actually, feeding the homeless was Desmond’s idea, not the elder Phillips’.

Phillips said he continues to feed the homeless in memory of his son after church on Sundays.

The Phillips family wants to keep Desmond’s name alive and for justice to be served by having the officers who killed Desmond held accountable.

In the meantime, District Attorney Ramsey concluded his investigation and determined the officers were justified in killing Desmond. The officers returned to duty.

###

Click here to read the letter by Diane E. Schmidt to District Attorney Michael L. Ramsey, published online at ChicoSol. Schmidt is a 40-year veteran policy analyst and ranking professor of Public Administration in the California State University, Chico, political science and criminal justice department. 

Click here to read an opinion piece about Schmidt’s letter by Dave Waddell, ChicoSol’s news editor.

A News Cafe.com publisher Doni Chamberlain contributed to this story. 

Steve DuBois
For many years Steve DuBois has enjoyed taking photos of his dogs in interesting and unusual places. He created a photo book of his dogs especially for the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he donated several copies. He loves that the kids enjoy seeing his dogs photographed in unusual ways. Steve says his dogs have been his photographic inspiration and motivation, but sometimes he tries his hand at nature shots, such as the photos he captured of the north state’s 2017 flooding, published here on A News Cafe.com. Steve DuBois lives in Redding.
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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim says:

    It was a tragic situation, but the Father’s allegations are clearly contradicted the actual 911 calls & radio dispatches: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLdvB2ZF-0Q

    Brief synopsis:
    —–
    Initial 911 call: Dad says son is having seizures and needs medical help, send ambulance.

    Fire engine arrives and requests police assistance code 2 (medium priority) for 5150 (mental health crisis)

    Shortly after Dad calls 911 again and requests police saying Desmond has a knife.

    Police arrive and attempt to negotiate. The first officers on scene repeatedly ask for less lethal options, but apparently have none (later reports said the 1st taser malfunctioned or was ineffective).

    Son closes and locks door. 911 calls the dad who says “he just tried to stab me” 911 asks if Dad can exit the apartment. Dad says he cannot. He then says he has grandkids in the apartment. You can here Dad yell “stop” to Desmond. 911 asks if the kids are with Desmond, Dad says he doesn’t know, he guesses so.

    At this point the 911 dispatcher upgrades it to a criminal violence call. Dad can be heard sobbing asking Desmond to please stop. Someone (Dad?) yells “I’m gonna have to shoot you” 911 asks if Dad has a gun, Dad says no, but that Desmond is trying to kick the door in. Then Dad says “he’s trying to stab me now” and for the dispatcher to tell the police to bust a window and come in if they have to.

    Dispatch relays the violent escalation including that Desmond is trying to stab the father and that there are grandkids present.

    Police cannot get to the back window due to a “semi aggressive” dog and request the battering ram for the front door.

    Dad hears the police enter and briefly sounds relieved. 10 seconds later you can hear the taser. 5 seconds later you hear a scream. 5 seconds later you hear 1 gunshot, then a slight pause, then rapid fire gunshots. The time between the 1st gunshot and the last was about 4 seconds. Dad screams and wails and asks if the police tried a taser. Police and dispatch ask Dad to back up. Dad wails “I told you he was mental.”

    Medics arrive about a minute and a half later and take him to enloe where he was DOA.
    —-

    Additional info: Police had responded to a call the prior December when medics could not handle Desmond. At that incident, police reported that Desmond had hit his father.

    Clearly in his last moments, Desmond was not the peaceful praying man in a trance that the “Justice4Desmond” crowd alleges. Chico PD has had multiple town halls where various activists make the claims outlined in this article and the Police calmly refute them with the facts. But people don’t want to believe. Desmond may not have had any traffic tickets, but he had been arrested in violent confrontations with police in both Sacramento and Chico.

    The real tragedy is that in this day and age mankind has not developed a way to STOP someone without lethal force. Tasers, pepper spray, bean bags, etc are deterrents that slightly limit motion. Desmond was tased twice and then jumped free and charged 2 officers with deadly weapons in hand.

    All the shots hit him in the head, neck & chest — from the front and/or side. 10 shots entered horizontally, 1 shot entered below his eye and traveled downward into his heart. Activists say that 1 downward trajectory proves Desmond was kneeling. Police counter that it happened as Desmond was falling forward towards the officers.

    There is some discrepancy over 16 or 17 shots, but what difference does it really make? You can hear how rapidly the shots went off in the audio, it wasn’t like there was a coup de grace after the commotion was over…

    In the aftermath, Chico PD has put all of its officers through more mental health training. Hopefully that will help de-escalate future events, but it doesn’t mean these two officers “murdered” Desmond. They did the best they could in a terrible situation.

    • Avatar DBC says:

      911 calls usually tell a different side of the story.

      • Here’s my take on the 911 call: The fact is that no matter what the father was saying; how freaked he was, he’d called for help because his son was in a mental health state of crisis.

        I think it’s an understatement to say that Chico police used excessive force with Desmond.

        There are non-lethal methods to deal with someone who’s mentally ill. This kind of training is crucial for police and first responders.

        Here are some videos from other countries that show how officers successfully diffused potentially deadly situations – one man had a machete, a far cry from Desmond’s kitchen knives – without firing a single shot.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mzPj_IaMzY
        https://www.cnn.com/videos/…/cop-stops-man-with-knife-orig-tc.cnn

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Dad did call because son was having a mental health crisis, but a mental health crisis did not make Desmond less dangerous. Police are taught the “21 foot rule” – a violent man with a knife within 21 feet can mortally wound an officer before that officer can draw his gun, fire, and stop the threat. Desmond was less than 21 feet and he even got so close to officers that high-speed blood splatter blew-back onto the muzzle of one of their guns. In his final moments there is zero doubt that an armed & lunging Desmond represented a deadly threat.

        There is plenty of room to question everything that happened up and until Desmond made his final armed lunge. What could be done better next time? This is, of course, a far cry from a multi-million dollar lawsuit and cries of racist murder (incidentally, in the last year Chico police also killed a white kid disconnected from reality and slashing about with an improvised knife).

        In your first video, it was a relatively open space and officers could freely retreat. Officers in Chico were in tight quarters and one got himself trapped/cornered in the hallway. Furthermore, British Police don’t have firearms. They may well have used them if they did (and would have been justified).

        Your second video link is broken, but I am going to assume it is the one from Thailand where a suicidal man calmly holds a knife to his own neck. Police talk him into handing it over, at which point they hug. That’s always the goal, but clearly Desmond was not in this same frame of mind. Desmond had attacked his father, tried kicking in his door, and was flailing a knife outward – towards others.

        Dad knew there was a potential for escalation all along, which is why he misrepresented his initial call as a seizure so the first responders would not be police. He had done the same thing in the past. Police are not trained mental health orderlies in a sterile environment, they are peacekeepers/peacemakers in a violent & chaotic environment.

        The US & California mental health system failed Desmond. Dad & family did the best they could, although their denial about Desmond’s violence probably prevented a longer mental health hold. Mental health services, for its part, failed to connect the dots and see the violent history.

        Desmond’s mental health apparently deteriorated rapidly after the incident in Sacramento. Often severe mental health issues appear in the early to mid 20s. Often they occur after drug use. Often they occur after brain trauma. On June 3rd, 2016 Desmond may have had a trifecta:

        June 3 2016: Desmond has, what he later told officers, “a bad trip.” A bystander calls police when Desmond is found lying on the rails. He was trance-like until officers attempted to pick him up, at which point he became extremely violent. In the struggle, Desmond receives a bruise & abrasions on his cheek consistent with being held down against railroad tracks.
        Desmond is so agitated and violent, he begins damaging the patrol car. Officers hobble him. When they get to the jail, Desmond had struggled free of the leg restraints and even managed to slip out of one handcuff. He assaults a police officer by swinging the handcuffs into his face.
        He is admitted the the hospital in restraints. Despite an initial fever, high blood pressure, and elevated heart rate, doctors can ultimately find nothing wrong. After 4 days he becomes a totally different person, apologizing for attacking the officers and saying it was a bad trip. Desmond admits to smoking marijuana, but police suspect it may have been one of the synthetic drugs floating the streets at the time. Unfortunately, they have no way of testing for them. The toxicology screen comes back positive only for marijuana.
        Desmond is charged with a felony and will have multiple court dates over the next 9 months. In fact, he will fail to appear for a court date 2 weeks before his death.

        October 20, 2016: Desmond suffers from auditory hallucinations and admits himself to Chico’ Enloe hospital. His symptoms began to clear and he was given motrin and discharged with the recommendation that he follow up with primary care & psychiatric services.

        December 30 2016: 911 is called for a 5150. Desmond’s father’s requests medical only. Firefighters arrive and Desmond becomes highly agitated. The firefighters retreat and request police against Dad’s wishes. Dad says he will not let police in and dispatch cancels the police. 15 minutes later, dad calls 911 says Desmond had become violent. Police arrive, but Dad refuses to let them inside. Police watch through the window as Dad tries to bear-hug an unarmed Desmond, but Desmond became more and more agitated and began hitting his dad. Dad gives up and opens the door for police. It took 3 officers to handcuff Desmond and once in the car he began to try to slip his handcuffs and do damage to the patrol car. Officers placed him in additional restraints. He presented at the hospital with the same symptoms as in Sacramento and doctors ran the same tests. After a week, they released him with anti-seizure meds.
        ***A Butte County Behavioral Health Department counselor interviewed Desmond and his family to see if the mental health hold should be maintained. During this interview, both Desmond and his family lied and said there had never been any previous violent or criminal behavior. Aside from his recent outburst, Desmond was still pending trial for assaulting Sacramento Police. Unfortunately, the counselor did not do any independent assessment and released Desmond from the mental health hold.

        Jan 18 2017: Desmond refills his anti-seizure meds sometime during the day. At 4:38pm 911 is called to the apartment where Desmond is sitting upright but unresponsive. After 40 minutes of him not moving, yet posing no apparent threat, Police and fire leave despite Dad warning “he could become violent” and that he has not been taking his meds. At 7:53pm police and fire are called back out. Desmond allows himself to be lifted on a gurney, and medics agree to take him if officers are present. He arrives at the hospital without incident where he is given Valium and released after a few hours.

        Jan 19 2017: Desmond changes prescriptions to a different seizure medication

        Feb 2 2017: Desmond refills prescription

        Mar 1 2017: Desmond fails to appear to court in Sacramento for the assault on the officer. Later that day, he walks into Butte Behavioral Health crisis center and asks for a letter to be sent to his lawyer. He says he is having violent thoughts and is hypervigilant. He denies ever having been violent or threatening others, but admits to a recent arrest. The counselor released Desmond with a “safety plan” and a follow-up appointment the next week.

        Mar 8 2017: Desmond does not show for his follow-up appointment with the crisis center.

        Mar 17 2017: Shooting. Autopsy shows only trace amounts of the prescription drugs in his system. Desmond’s brain was intact and the autopsy showed no signs of brain trauma (past or present).

  2. Avatar conservative says:

    Police train to empty the magazine into a subject. Better less than lethal alternatives to the Taser are needed to stop a subject advancing on an officer. I would like to see officers have one rubber bullet in the chamber and pause to evaluate the response.

    More research in less than lethal force options is needed. Maybe the State of California, following up on the success of the stem cell initiative, could develop something to fill the gap between the Taser and emptying a magazine into a subject with a rate of fire of under one round per second.

    • Avatar conservative says:

      When I lived in rural Shasta county, pot growers gunfire happened at least weekly Pot growers also train to shoot something like eight rounds from their Glocks at a very high rate.

      It must be horrible for a police officer or correctional officer to empty his magazine into a subject. An officer who stops a subject with a rubber bullet is probably less likely to go out on disability for PTSD or anxiety. Police officers have a high rate of suicide, alcoholism and domestic violence. I wonder if training to empty a magazine into someone and trying to imagine the results is part of the problem.

    • Avatar cheyenne says:

      I have two family members in law enforcement, one did combat tours with the Army, and their training never contained empty their magazine into a subject. Another one of your fake announcements.
      What has become apparent with law enforcement nationwide they need a special trained unit to deal with mental health persons. But that takes money and few of the public went to spend that money. Some of the larger police forces have mental professionals but for small rural police districts, where many of the mental cases are, cannot afford it.

  3. Avatar sal says:

    “train to empty the magazine” lol

  4. Avatar Tim says:

    1) Police are not trained to empty the magazine. They are trained to shoot until the threat stops – just like everyone else. But there is a lag in time between when the brain observes that a threat has stopped and when the finger stops manipulating the trigger. Normally this “OODA” feedback loop takes about half a second in which time an extra 2-3 “excessive” shots can be fired.

    2) Neither officer in chico “emptied his mags.” This is one of the family’s persistent, but easily refuted claims. Both officers were carrying 9mm duty pistols which have a typical capacity of 15+1 or 17+1. Both officers shot repeatedly. Police say 16 shots total were fired, the family says 17. Either way, between them the two officers had at least 15 rounds remaining.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      The parents of the other young man who was killed by police in Chico after the officer was assaulted with a shard from a broken toilet contend that he had never been in trouble and did not use drugs. Nor do they know why he was in Chico. Of course they are heartbroken, but his presence in Chico and his erratic behavior are unanswered questions. I’d like to see the same timeline that Tim did for Desmond.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        34 year-old Tyler Rushing owned a window cleaning business in Ventura and had his own apartment. He was known for being a bit eccentric, but loving & peaceful (his personal motto was peace, love, & positivity – which he drew often as a peace symbol, a heart symbol, and a plus sign). His friends called him Tyger.

        Thursday July 13, 2017: Tyler arrived near the border of Mendocino & Humboldt to help set up a music festival.

        Friday, Saturday & Sunday July 14-16, 2017: Tyler attended the music festival.

        Monday & Tuesday July 17-18, 2017: Tyler stayed to help clean up

        Wednesday July 19, 2017: Tyler lost or had his personal effects stolen, leaving him without keys to operate his pickup. He was asked to leave the festival after being caught rummaging through strangers’ backpacks. According to the driver who picked him up, Tyler hitchhiked south along 101 and was let out at highway 20 so he could try to make his way to Chico, where his mother went to school. The driver said Tyler was upset over the theft but was trying to make the best of it and “go with the flow.”

        Thursday, July 20, 2017: Tyler approached a recent college graduate in Chico near a homeless hangout. She said he was too well dressed to be homeless, but his behavior grew increasingly bizarre. At one point he growled at her and said his name was Tyger. He asked her for a garbage bag so he could clean up around the apartment, telling her that picking up trash made him feel good and was his medicine. She gave him the bag and left the premises. When she returned, she discovered a full bag of garbage on her doorstep with a thank you note writen on a flyer. On that note he rambled about having been robbed and kicked out of his “home” by his “family” 2 days ago (*note* these quotes were in the official report and, to me, hint that Tyler may have been involved in an alternative polyamorous lifestyle arrangement). He then invited her to like him on Facebook.

        Friday July 21, 2017: Tyler checks in to the Jesus Center homeless outreach and appears sober & in good spirits. He uses a phone to call his mom and tell her know he was robbed. She promises to come up in a few days with a spare key so he could get his truck and come home. Tyler seems happy.

        Saturday July 22, 2017: Tyler approaches people setting up a booth for a non profit and offers to help. He does, and they give him a little money for food. He seemed upbeat and indicated he “wanted to do good.” He returned later to help take down the booth, but became agitated when he was not allowed to put an awning into a box. The volunteer calmed him by saying “the day should not end on a bad note.” Later that night Tyler shared coffee with a homeless man and confided that he was sleeping in Children’s Park. The homeless man described Tyler as “spiritually confused” & “a mad man with a cause.” Tyler now had a shopping cart, backpack, and some sort of pole.

        Sunday, July 23, 2017: Day of shooting.

        12:30 pm: Tyler crashed the end of a Presbyterian service and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Multiple church members moved in to watch & assist Tyler, and one let him borrow a phone to call his mom. Tyler did and left a voicemail. The church then sent for a homeless advocate who is known to help those on drugs. Tyler told the advocate he had taken psychedelic drugs at the festival and been robbed. Tyler wouldn’t say exactly what he had taken, but the advocate believed he was currently under the influence of it. The advocate described Tyler as “aggressive” but not violent. Just overly enthusiastic to do good… The advocate determined that Tyler was not yet willing to get sober and that he was unable to be of further assistance.

        8:23 pm: Neighbors had been watching Tyler rummage through bins behind the Discovery Shoppe, but call 911 after he begins to construct spears from pvc, a shovel, and a railroad spike.

        9:10 pm: police are (finally) dispatched to the 8:23 call.

        9:18 pm: Officer Fliehr locates Tyler and asks if he would mind putting down the spears. Tyler responds “yup” and runs away with the spears in the general direction of Mid Valley Title. Officer Fliehr loses Tyler and continues searching.

        10:37 pm: Exterior motion sensor tripped at Mid Valley Title

        10:42 pm: Interior motion sensor tripped at Mid Valley Title. Security dispatch calls the company to get authorization to send out an armed security officer.

        10:48 pm: Security officer is dispatched and notifies Chico PD dispatch that he is responding to an alarm at Mid Valley.

        10:58 pm: Security officer discovers evidence of a breach and activates his body camera. He enters the outside premises and sees a broken window. He radios for backup and to notify the police. Less than 5 seconds after ending that call, the security officer is violently ambushed. The security officer had his glock 9mm pistol drawn and was using its attached flashlight for light. He yelled for Tyler to stop as Tyler rushes. Tyler stabs the security officer multiple times in the forearm that the security officer was using to block the attack. The security guard fires 1 shot from close range into the torso and hears Tyler curse. Tyler flees. The security guard’s pistol suffers a failure to feed malfunction. The security guard manually chambers a new round and gets on the radio to report shots fired and that the subject had been hit. In the meantime Tyler disappears and the guard resumes his search.

        11:00 pm: Chico PD dispatched to Mid Valley Title for reported shots fired.

        11:03 pm: Chico PD arrives on scene and makes contact with the guard, who tells them the suspect stabbed him and that the suspect had been shot. Sergeant Ruppel recognizes the description of the suspect from the earlier call at the Discovery Shoppe ~5 blocks away. The guard is taken by ambulance to Enloe where he receives 9 stitches for 2 of his wounds.

        11:08 pm: Officers Fliehr & Schwyzer are dispatched to Discovery Shoppe to see if the suspect returned there. They search and find his shopping cart and belongings. They are going through his belongs when the 11:13 call comes in that the suspect had been located.

        11:11 pm: Officers spot a blood trail

        11:12 pm: Officers enter Mid Valley Title and announce their presence. Tyler responds “Fuck you! I’ve got a gun”

        11:13 pm: Chico PD Dispatch reports Tyler located inside Mid Valley Title, additional backup sent. During this time Sergeant Ruppel pleads for Tyler to come out so he could get medical help.

        11:16 pm: Officers accidentally trigger the burglar alarm, setting off an extremely loud siren. Sgt Ruppel continues to try and get Tyler to surrender as officers begin to formulate tactical plans.

        11:19 pm: the burglar alarm is turned off. Sgt Ruppel continues to plead with Tyler to come out of the bathroom and get some help. The bathroom door opens and closes a number of times, but Tyler never comes out.

        11:24 pm: Officers hear the sounds of objects breaking in the bathroom while still pleading.

        11:31 pm: Tyler begins to sing in a trance-like manner. Ruppel still pleads

        11:33 pm: Tyler begins to moan in pain. Ruppel pleads

        11:36 pm: More breaking/clanging sounds from the bathroom. Ruppel still pleads.

        11:40 pm: Tyler again cries out in pain. Ruppel says medics are here, please come out so we can help.

        11:43 pm: Butte County Sherrif’s K9 Tig arrives on scene and begins whining like an excited german shepherd.

        11:45 pm: The deputy announces the k9 is here and for Tyler to come out or he’ll be bitten. The dog can be heard getting keyed up barking/whining.

        11:48 pm: blood-tinged water begins to seep from below the door (Tyler had broken plumbing & blocked drains).

        11:49 pm: Ruppel gives his last plea for Tyler to take it easy and come out. No sounds/reply is heard.

        11:50 pm: Two officers pound on a back wall to distract Tyler while three others attempt to breach the bathroom door. It takes 2 tries to ram the door open. Officer Schwyzer is carrying a riot shield and has no weapon drawn. He locates Tyler and attempts to pin him in a bathroom stall. Tyler stabs Officer Schwyzer with a 6″ shard of ceramic toilet. Sergeant Ruppel announces “Knife!”

        At this point 3 officers, all over 6′ 220 lbs, are failing to subdue the 5’11” 175 lbs Tyler. K9 Tig is released and bites Tyler, but Tyler gives no indication that he feels it. They struggle for ~30 seconds at which time Tyler exclaims “all of you are going to fucking die!”

        7 seconds later Sergeant Ruppel is stabbed in the neck approximately 1/2″ from his carotid artery with what he described as a “shank” (later believed to be a metal ballpoint pen he had taken off one of the officers). Sergeant Ruppel fell back and held his neck with one hand, while watching the suspect stab at the other 2 officers with a metallic object.

        11:50:47 pm: 47 seconds after the breach… Sergeant Ruppel draws his Glock .45, steps forward, and shoots Tyler once in the chest at near point blank range as Tyler continues to struggle with the other officers. Ruppel pauses for 1 2/3 second, and seeing Tyler continue to fight, fires a second shot into his neck, which caused Tyler to fall. Ruppel leaves to tend his wound while the other officers tase Tyler while handcuffing him.

        11:53 pm: Tyler is carried out of the bathroom to the ambulance.

        11:59 pm: Tyler’s time of death is called after lifesaving efforts fail.

        Autopsy:
        The security guard’s 9mm shot to Tyler’s chest caused a fatal hemopneumothorax (chest cavity fills with blood and air, making it nearly impossible to breathe). This is normally a debilitating injury and the doctor could not believe Tyler fought on for just shy of 1 hour.

        Ruppel’s first .45 shot went through the sternum and broke the collarbone, but hit nothing vital.

        Ruppel’s second .45 shot went from the back/side of the upper neck and out the cheek. It would likely stun or knock someone out, but it was survivable.

        Cause of death was exsanguination from the Security guard’s shot.

        Toxicology: multiple tests have shown only Marijuana, but again there are many substances that do not show up. Tyler had some seeds on his person that are believed to be hallucinagenic and are being tested by the FBI & Homeland Security.

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          Thank you for this, Tim. It appears that Tyler’s parents don’t believe this chain of events nor that Tyler ever used drugs.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Yeah, I mean you don’t want to see the worst in your loved ones. And there were a few seeds lying around to sprout doubt:

            The shooting happened so soon after Desmond Phillips’

            The video shows Tyler fall immediately after Ruppel’s final shot, yet it wasn’t listed as the cause of death.

            Three weeks later Ruppel suffered an apparent episode of PTSD and choked a suspect in retaliation for resisting arrest. It was captured on another officer’s body cam, but neither that officer or Ruppel reported the incident. (The DA saw it when reviewing charges and Ruppel was suspended pending an investigation. The 51 year-old opted to retire. The DA eventually wound up pressing charges against Sergeant Ruppel; they are still pending).