(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The clinician who participated in an initial mental health call at a McLean house in early July wasn’t present for a subsequent call that concluded in a fatal shooting because he was doing paperwork, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said today (Thursday).
The Fairfax County Police Department currently has just one mental health clinician available to accompany officers on calls for mental and behavioral health crises as part of the county’s still-new co-responder program, according to Davis.
During the July 7 encounter, as shown by newly released audio and video footage, two officers deployed electronic control weapons, and a third — identified in the updated news release as Police Officer First Class Edward George, a 10-year veteran — fired his gun, shooting and killing 26-year-old Jasper Aaron Lynch.
All three officers had received crisis intervention training, but the co-responder clinician who joined them on the first call to the scene in the 6900 block of Arbor Lane was absent when the team was called back.
“That clinician had moved on to another location at the conclusion of his tour of duty to complete some administrative paperwork,” Davis said. “That’s the only reason why the clinician was not in a place where he was able to respond with us to the second call for service.”
With the current budget that took effect on July 1, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved funding to permanently expand the co-responder program, which was introduced as a pilot in spring 2021.
According to Davis, the program will advance to the second of four phases with the addition of another clinician on Monday (Aug. 8). The FCPD will ultimately have 16 clinicians riding along with officers, with about eight on duty at any given time.
Even at full force, co-responder teams will only be able to address a fraction of the thousands of mental health-related calls that come through 911. In 2022 so far, the FCPD has responded to 6,700 calls for service — or about 33 calls per day — for persons in mental or behavioral health crisis, Davis said.
Davis noted that the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been simplified to 988, offering an alternative to calling the police for situations where someone is in crisis.
“[The co-responder model] is not a silver bullet,” Davis said. “I think it’s our responsibility, both law enforcement and even local media, to manage expectations. It certainly will result in many more better outcomes for people in crisis.”
For the most part, the 911 call and body-worn camera video released today align with the FCPD’s preliminary account of the events leading up to Lynch’s death.
Note: The following video is contains some images and sounds that readers may find disturbing.
The officers and clinician first responded to the home around 7:11 p.m. after 911 received a call for a person in crisis, but they left when they were unable to locate the individual.
According to police, at 8:34 p.m., a man who identifies himself as the boyfriend of Lynch’s sister called 911, saying that “one of the family members here is having a bit of a psychotic break.”
“He is inside the home right now. He’s just thrown some things and shattered them. We are outside the home currently,” the man said, noting that no one had been injured and that no crashes had been heard since they left the house, so the person could have become more stable.
The 14 minutes of released body camera footage include an extended conversation between the arriving officers and a man and woman, who Davis identified as Lynch’s sister and her boyfriend. At one point, the woman mentions that Lynch had apparently not been sleeping or eating.
Upon entering the house, the officers can be heard telling a man shown standing in the foyer to “put it down,” that “it’s okay,” and that he’s “not in trouble.” Then, an object that police have said was a decorative, wooden mask is thrown in the direction of the camera.
The crackle of tasers being deployed can be heard, as the video shows Lynch moving toward the officers, holding what police say was a champagne bottle. There is the sound of multiple gunshots fired in rapid succession, as the man falls through the open front door.
At the end of the video, strained breaths can be heard, while someone says, “Shots fired. Start a supervisor’s rescue immediately.”
Davis said the officers’ conversation with Lynch’s sister was included “to demonstrate that our police officers are making every effort to ask the right questions.”
“We just don’t arrive on these scenes when someone’s in crisis and, absent any additional information, to into someone’s home,” Davis said. “Those days are long ago. I think our officers were confronted with a very chaotic and dangerous situation, but again, the investigation, it’s still ongoing. We’re only 28 days into this.”
There have been five shootings by Fairfax County police officers in 2022, a rate that Davis admitted “is unusual.” Lynch’s death came just a week after the year’s other fatal shooting at Springfield Town Center.
Just this past Tuesday (Aug. 2), a detective shot a man during a drug investigation in Seven Corners. Since the police involved in that incident were undercover, they weren’t wearing body cameras, Davis said, noting that an investigation into the shooting is underway.
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