If you’ve been to Kensington lately, you know how certain streets look like a zombie apocalypse with drug users behaving in all kinds of irrational ways.
Knowing just how pervasive drug abuse is in that neighborhood, you’d expect some restraint on the part of law enforcement.
But according to various cell phone videos, that’s not what happened on Labor Day when Darin Lee, an East Oak Lane resident with a long history of mental illness, showed up following a family cookout and began behaving erratically.
Instead of helping Lee, police shot him multiple times, leaving the 31-year-old father of a 3-year-old boy critically wounded.
Surely, police didn’t have to shoot him.
Surely, less lethal methods could have been used to subdue him.
Surely, things could have ended differently.
But none of the officers was carrying a Taser. We don’t know why.
An email I sent to police last week asking about the use of Tasers was not returned.
“What we can see is that Darin posed no threat to any of those officers,” said Shaka Johnson, Lee’s lawyer, adding that his client suffered from “mental health, insobriety, or a combination of the two.”
Meanwhile, Lee faces a host of criminal charges including aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, making terroristic threats, and possession of an instrument of crime. Johnson called the charges a “grotesque abuse of authority."
Lee was shot several times. He remained at Temple University Hospital on Monday with wounds to his stomach, both hips, and an arm.
Johnson blamed the shooting on recent tensions between police and residents.
“It was an overreaction and a maturation of what’s been brewing for the last 30 days or so,” said Johnson, who represented Maurice Hill, who allegedly shot six police officers last month during a nearly eight-hours standoff in the Tioga neighborhood of North Philadelphia.
Frankly, I don’t know whether there’s a connection between what happened in Tioga and Lee’s shooting.
My immediate concern is about the amount of force used to subdue Lee. From the way he was acting that night, it should have been obvious that something was wrong.
Cell phone videos show people begging the officers not to shoot Lee.
“We know him. He’s just high,” one man told the officers.
Another man said, “We got him. We got him.”
“Just Tase him,” another voice said.
Philadelphia police said officers were patrolling the area on the evening of Sept. 2 when they noticed Lee, who was on foot, get into an altercation with someone driving a Nissan Titan SUV. The driver sped away, police said, at which point officers confronted Lee.
According to authorities, Lee ignored repeated commands to drop a box cutter he was carrying.
At one point, Lee can be seen on video moving in the direction of the officers just before five shots rang out.
His father, Darrell Lee was relaxing after the cookout when he got a call telling him to check out No Gun Zone, a popular antiviolence page on Instagram. That’s where he saw a video of what happened, which has since been removed.
Lee, 52, could tell by the Polo vest over the hoodie that the man shot by police was his sixth-born child, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
His family acknowledges Darin’s long history of severe mental instability but questions the amount of force that police used to subdue him.
“This box cutter that they wind up showing is like a box cutter like from the dollar store,” his father told me last week. “You really could put this box cutter on your key chain. This wasn’t like no box cutter from Home Depot that you cut carpet up with or nothing like that.”
Lee said one of the wounds his son suffered was to his bladder. That’s the kind of wound that lingers, possibly for the rest of this life.
It’s all because police shot a mentally unstable man — who was already in a whole lot of pain — instead of using a less lethal method to subdue him.