Mental illness and a shooting

Saying Nothing, our view.





We set a dangerous precedent when we allow our law enforcement to say nothing. That was the case with the unfortunate death of a local woman, Kalah Shannon Gary, at the hands of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. Its statement about the shooting death for which it was responsible said nothing. We have learned details from the family’s attorney, Justin Bamberg, a state legislator; but still there are many questions.

Even if the Sheriff’s Office did not feel comfortable saying that Ms. Gary was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time she was shot, after brandishing what turned out to be a fake gun, it could have consulted SLED’s Communications Office for some guidance, or referred the matter to its attorney. Instead, the fact that the office said pretty much nothing led Black activists to gather in its front parking lot a day after the shooting to demand “transparency” - Bamberg said, to its credit, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office did extend to the family the courtesy of viewing the body-cam and dash-cam vidoes - equipment paid for by taxpayer money - of their daughter being shot and killed. It didn’t have to be that way, Bamberg said, but at least he expressed gratitude to LCSO and SLED for giving the family some measure of closure. They didn’t have to do that, Bamberg pointed out.

Just as they didn’t have to say something right after the shooting, but saying what they did say was unnecessarily cruel. A brief statement is dismissive - kind of, “this happened now sit back and let us investigate ourselves.” No “officer on desk duty,” as is common in these cases. No “our sincere condolences.” No mention of a fake gun - other than SLED’s later statement alluding to the fact the Ms. Gary was “armed” - armed with something as it turns out that trained law enforcement officers cannot tell the dfference between being a real gun and a fake gun. As Bamberg pointed out, it’s created and marketed to look so real you can point it at somebody and send them the clear message to back off - or get shot.

Bamberg says it’s a mental health matter. But, as a state lawmaker, he should know the State Department of Mental Health is never fully funded. And we haven’t funded 988, a mental health call center. Laurens County does not send money to the regional mental health center, to assist with operations at the local mental health center located in the Professional Park between Clinton and Laurens. In fact, the state mental health agency this past legislative year was in a literal “life and death” struggle to simply exist. Just like Kalah Gary on May 21.     


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