VERO BEACH, Fla. – A 29-year-old man being held for his mental health in a Florida hospital was fatally shot after he grabbed a pair of scissors and threatened to stab sheriff’s deputies, officials said.
The man was among multiple people being held in the hospital despite threatening to harm themselves or others because there were no beds at the local mental health facility, Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said.
“It’s a terrible tragedy, not just in our county, but in our country. We’re facing a mental health crisis,” Flowers said.
The man's family had brought him to the emergency department of the Cleveland Clinic Indian River in Vero Beach on Friday after he tried to hang himself, Flowers said during a news conference on Sunday.
“He grabs a pair of scissors, large scissors, and he’s running through the hospital,” the sheriff said.
Deputies began chasing him, and he raised the scissors over his head.
“At that point our deputies begin to retreat back," Flowers said. “Again, a small narrow hallway, gurneys, all kinds of stuff in there. They draw their weapons and two of the deputies fire, shooting and killing this man.”
The man was being held under the Florida Mental Health Act, commonly called the Baker Act, which allows authorities to hold someone in a mental health facility for up to 72 hours if they are a threat to themselves or others.
He and other patients also brought to the hospital on mental health holds couldn't get care at a mental health facility on Saturday because it was full, Flowers said.
“The fact that we were up there taking people in for suicidal incidents for Baker Acts, that they had multiple Baker Act patients awaiting transportation to a facility because there’s not enough beds, and the fact that this gentleman had been waiting there for a day and a half shows what kind of mental health crisis we’re in right now,” the sheriff said.
The deputies have been placed on administrative leave as the shooting is reviewed.