City Desk

Remembering David Kerstetter

During last week's oversight hearing on the Department of Mental Health, there was an opportunity for Councilmember David Catania to fire up his inner prosecutor and start asking some tough questions about what happened on the morning of Nov. 6.

On that morning, two police officers responded to David Kerstetter's Logan Circle home. The two cops knew that Kerstetter was mentally-ill and that he was in crisis. The officers did not quite know what to do. They waited outside his home for roughly a half hour. They called their supervisor. They tried calling Kerstetter's therapist.

The officers should have called DMH's mobile crisis response team. Instead, they went inside Kerstetter's home. Kerstetter ended up being shot multiple times and died. He allegedly came at the officers with a knife and a struggle ensued. [The evidence casts serious doubt on that narrative]. While a standard MOU had yet to be signed between DMH and D.C. Police, the existence of the mobile crisis team was known all the way up to the highest levels of the police department.

So I waited for Kerstetter's name to be invoked. And I waited for Catania to ask some tough questions. Instead, Catania played it safe and gentle.

When the subject of mobile crisis and police-DMH cooperation came up, Catania offered this limp assessment:

“You don’t always get it right," he said.  "You got to have to have those systems willing to back each other up…That’s part of the beauty here. I’m very pleased with the collaboration going on there.”

“Everything isn’t neat in a crisis,” Catania went on to say. So much for deep insight.

David Kerstetter was never mentioned. Maybe he came up later in the hearing. I'm still watching the hours of testimony. But that moment would have been the moment to start asking some tough questions about the morning of November 6.

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