City Desk

David Kerstetter Shooting: DMH Responds

As you all know by now, a D.C. Police Department veteran shot and killed a suicidal man, who allegedly was brandishing a knife, at 1325 13th Street NW. The incident took place yesterday morning following a 911 call.

David Kerstetter, the man who police shot and killed, was familiar to officers who worked on 13th Street and officers who worked in the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

"He had some issues in his life," says Brett Parson, who oversees all of the D.C. Police Department's liaison units. "Whether it was mental health or stress in his life, I can't tell you that....It's a sad case."

The incident may eventually be ruled as justified. But it calls into serious question the D.C. Police Department's continued refusal to adequately deal with mentally-distressed residents.

Just a few days ago, the Department of Mental Health (DMH) launched a new outreach program aimed at preventing such incidents. On November 1, the department started up its mobile crises response teams. The teams have a staff of 20 working 16 hours per day, seven days a week.

Stephen T. Baron, DMH’s director, says that mobile crises response team may not have been called over a technicality. His agency is still waiting for the police department to sign a memorandum of understanding.

“I don’t know all the details," Baron says of the Kerstetter incident. "I spoke to Chief (Diane) Groomes briefly about it. It’s a tragedy for everybody all around."

Would his new crises team have responded to such a case? “I’m sure it would have," Baron says. "I’m sure they would have shown up. But who knows where they were in the process? The police are handling it. They can’t stop.”

Baron goes on to say: "We don’t have our mou with the police in place. I think everything happened so quickly. We’re doing training of cadets. We’re doing training. We deliberately rolled out the mobile crisis slowly. They need some training. I don’t know all the details about this case to even comment on it.”

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