Andre Bowers was shot and killed by Langford Police when he was standing in the parking lot of a local 7-11 waving a pistol. He happened to be African American and later it was determined that the .38 snub nose was not loaded. Immediately the small community reacted to this incident creating a question: How can we prevent future incidents from happening? This question is not unique to Langford. One more factor, Andre Bowers was mentall ill.
From interview with Sidney Ross, Langford City Manager:
Last year about this time, there was a riot in this city, but a year later all that has been forgotten in due time. People who are disenfranchised are easily dismissed when other matters of concern arise in our community. This city has prided itself on the moral fiber of its citizens and as the City Manager, I feel that I am in the driver’s seat in making sure Langston remains a thriving community sitting on the banks of the Ohio River a few miles east of Cincinnati.
It was a small thing that became a big thing. It’s just how things are these days with the advent of cell phone photo and video access. It would have never become the rolling snowball it became if it wasn’t for the damn cell phone video that played on the nightly news. I’m not saying Andre Bowers deserved to die. It’s just that he raised a gun when the police came on the scene and refused to relinquish when commanded to drop the gun. The officers fired because Andre Bowers presented a threat to their safety. What made me angry was that most of the footage omitted that part of the story.
Andre Bowers was a threat to the situation justifying the use of deadly force. The riots and protests that followed were in reaction to the media coverage which once again showed police officers firing on an African American Male who was armed with a snub nose .38 revolver.
Now we are hearing rumblings from some of the people about the anniversary of his death. I have alerted the police force in case there are future protests.
From interview with Abigail North, organizer of Stand With Us:
He was murdered in cold blood. It was recorded by one of the bystanders in the crowd. The gun was not loaded and he was not pointing it at anyone. At no time was anyone in real danger. He did not drop the gun because he was disoriented and confused with all those people shouting at him. We must remember that Andre Bowers was an adult with a disability. When the officers arrived on the scene, they had no idea about Andre’s disability. They just drew their weapons and fired. Seventeen times. No warning, they just opened fire. We need to stand together on this issue, not just as people of color, but as all people who are under fire by the exact security professionals who are supposed to protect and serve our community.
Andre Bowers was a victim. Nothing will change that. At any moment we too may become the victim. It is time we come together. It is time we form a unity for mutual protection and well-being. Stand with us.
From court testimony of Officer Brad Kimball, one of the officers who shot Andre Bowers:
I think it was evident that Andre Bowers was a clear and present threat to me and my colleagues. We know deadly force is the last resort, but when a suspect raises a deadly weapon, we are left with no choice. I realize that there were sixteen or seventeen shots fired at the suspect and that he hit ten times before he fell to the pavement, but he was shouting and acting irrationally. Each request we made was dismissed as he said he was tired of being a hostage of the system. He did not elaborate on what he meant by this. Later we found out that he was off his medication. While discovering he was a schizophrenic after he was shot, it is my opinion that this would not have changed the outcome. (some murmuring in the background).
While it has been stated, there was no warning given prior to the shooting of the suspect, in playing the video, you can clearly hear me give a command for the suspect to drop his weapon, which he failed to do.
From a television interview with Mr. Avery Sampson, prosecuting attorney.
There were a lot of things that were kept from the public due to the mental state of Mr. Bowers. What was clear to me was the fact that in most cases those adults suffering with mental illness are in mortal danger during police confrontations, because most people do not fully understand what is taking place. Mr. Bowers left a note to his mother stating that he did not see the use of continuing living with his disability. She called the police. She told them that her son was sick. She told them they needed to go by his apartment and do a welfare check. According to the state laws, Mr. Bowers was not supposed to be in possession of a firearm. Had the authorities done what Mrs. Kendra Millwood, Andre’s mother, suggested, Andre would be in the mental hospital and not the cemetery. By the time Mr. Bowers got to the convenience store, he was highly agitated. When a person like Mr. Bowers goes without his medication for a long period of time, his mind is bothered by the psychotic stimulation. It’s like listening to a phone constantly ringing. After a while you start getting a little pissed off and agitated. Now I have looked at the evidence and while I do not agree that the officers should have gotten off without some penalty, I can certainly understand their perception of thinking Mr. Bowers was presenting a clear and present danger. Where they erred was acting without fully understanding the situation. It is a fine line. Even in a lit parking lot, when someone is waving a pistol, you have no way of knowing that the pistol is not loaded. In the video I heard someone shout out that the gun was not loaded, but in all the excitement details like that are often missed.
Mr. Obbie Bowers, Andre’s younger brother during interview with television reporter:
He come over to my house that night. He wanted a beer. So I give him one. He starts talking about how Jesus is talking directly to him. He done it before. That’s how I knew he was off his meds. So I asked him and he told me to go to Hell. He starts getting pissed off. He pulls out his gun. I asked him where he got it and he said he had a friend. Ain’t loaded, he tells me, because he knows I keep a couple of guns for protection. I don’t live in one of the better neighborhoods. Ain’t no gates. I tell him he can sleep on the extra bed. He starts calming down, but my Rosie she comes home from her job at the nursing home and starts telling him she will drive him to the hospital. He goes crazy, saying he ain’t going to no place where they can lock him up. He tells me he wants some more beer. Starts walking to the 7-11 around the block. He’s my brother. I ain’t going to stop him. Now I’m wishing I had. Lord, I’m wishing I had stopped him.
Reverend Thomas Baker, minister to a group mentally ill adults during a Podcast.
You know in the Bible it says Jesus was telling his disciples about Heaven by saying “What so ever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” And that is why we have a group, because a person suffering from a severe and persistent mental illness is substantially more likely to die in a confrontation with the police than all other people combined. Gives me a chance to keep my eyes on them when no one else will. When I got the news about Andre, I was not in the least surprised. I knew he was headed for what the others call “suicide by police.” That’s because they can’t take it anymore. The voices in their heads, the psychotic illusions, the smells. All of it. It would overwhelm even the best of us. Now Stand With Us is a start, but them folks got it wrong, too. What it’s gonna take is a concerted effort on the part of the community to accept those with mental illness into the community. People are afraid of them. People are afraid of what they will do or say. They make most people uncomfortable. They make up most of the homeless population because most of the time they do not have the rational functioning on how to be a productive part of society.
I saw Andre three days before the police shot him at that 7-1l and I knew what was going to happen. He told me. He told me that he was tired of the voices and the visual hallucinations. Seems harmless calling them hallucinations like he was smoking weed, but these hallucinations are horrible. Monsters and devils that Stephen King can’t begin to imagine. I’m not sure I could last a week (laughs) and yet they manage to get through it until one day they can’t. Obbie Bowers came to me the night he got shot to tell me. An hour later we heard.
Now you know I had a close relation with Andre and I knew he was a good man. He was kind and generous. He found a stray puppy and kept him for about five years until the dog got hit by a truck. The driver helped Andre get his dog to the veterinarian, but there was nothing they could do. Andre spent the night with that dog, holding him and saying his name again and again. There are times when mercy just isn’t enough.
Mr. Walter Seltzman, Mayor of Langford, OH, Press Conference after City Council meeting:
These are the kinds of things that tear a community apart. My police officers are professional and they put their lives on the line each time they put on their uniform. And while there are criminals who endanger their lives, there are other citizens who need special attention and therefore I am looking into a special unit to deal with those adults who face special challenges. I cannot guarantee that we can solve this problem, but unless we are willing to take steps to prevent this from happening again, we shall repeat the mistakes we have made in the past.
Ms Gloria Bradinsky, opposition to Mayor Seltzman in press conference:
Spending more taxpayer dollars on a program that is doomed from the start. What can we learn from this doomed program? It sounds like a winner, but there is no assurance that we can have a police force that is sensitive to the needs of our mentally disabled community. From the moment Andre Bowers walked out of his brother’s house, he was looking for a way to die. There was nothing that could be done to stop him as long as the police did their job and they did. Yes, this was a horrible tragedy, but no amount of training or sensitivity could have saved Andre Bowers that night. Next time this happens, the gun is fired and police will be the ones who wind up in the hospital.
Mr. Simon Montittle, patient at the Langford Community Mental Health Center during an interview with reporters.
Yeah, I know Andre. He was a good guy. He shared his smokes with me. He told me that he was tired of coming to the center. He was tired of taking meds. He was tired of being told what to do. It wasn’t working, he told me. It’s hard. The voices are cruel. He told me the voices were telling him he should kill himself. He told me they were calling him all kinds of names. Said he was a worthless piece of crap. You can only take so much of that.
Ms Whitney Smaltz, clinician counselor for the Langford Community Mental Health Center on the same interview:
I’ve been here for almost ten years, right after I got my masters’ degree. Mr. Bowers was diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was eighteen after his break. I can’t really go into much detail as the records are confidential under H.I.P.A.A. even though he’s deceased now. I had a session with him two days before he died and I told him he needed to get involved in more therapy groups.
Dr. Nolan Kravitz, psychologist
What we must do first and foremost is listen to what the patient is telling us. Too often, we assume the patient is not able to tell us what is going on and we start telling him or her what to do. I find that during patient appointments, I get a lot more mileage just sitting there listening to them. I hear things that are important to consider. Andre Bowers didn’t want people to tell him what to do, but that didn’t stop them from doing it. I got along with him, because I let him speak. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to listen. Most of these patients are used to being told what to do without any regard to their feelings of emotions. At some point, we failed him.
I have read in the newspapers how we need to develop more empathy in our law enforcement, make them aware of the special needs of those who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, but until we learn to listen, I mean really listen, the solution will always be just beyond our fingertips. We all want change. We all see what has happened in the past that must not be allowed to be repeated ever again.
I got to speak at Andre’s funeral service where I spoke of a community that was more accepting of those who were different and needed us to be there for them. They don’t need your pity. They don’t need your promises that will never be kept. They don’t need to be ignored. What they need is someone who will pay attention. I hope for their sake it comes one day soon.
Author’s Note: I spent time working with adults with severe and persistent mental illness as described in the DSM V. This story is totally fiction, the characters, the locations, the town itself, but as I have often said, fiction often comes closer to the truth.