JUSTICE FOR ANDREW MESSINA: POLICY & PROCEDURE CHANGE TO PROTECT JUVENILES FROM DEADLY FORCE BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
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Justice for Andrew Messina Petition
The following petition applies to any and all U.S. Federal, State and Local law enforcement entities.
We, the undersigned, are a group of concerned citizens of the United States of America, who petition Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia House of Representatives, Georgia State Senate, to change the policies and procedures as they relate to the use of deadly force against juveniles by law enforcement officers. In conformance with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice policy 19.3, page 3, level 6, O.C.G.A. § 17-4-20 states as follows:
“The Investigator will determine the level of force necessary by the subject's actions and behavior, (e.g., compliance, resistance, aggression or overt hostility), and the circumstances of the subject. The Investigator will take into account the age, size, gender, level of physical skill and/or disability and other disparate factors of the subject as the Investigator determines the degree (level) of force necessary to stop or have the subject stop his/her inappropriate, unlawful or dangerous behavior. Investigators will make use of all other means of non-deadly force before resorting to deadly force, including contacting counselors, physicians, and family members”.
Furthermore, the Georgia Constitution imposes upon Georgia Sheriffs the duty to transport mental health patients to hospitals or mental health facilities for treatment.
It is the opinion and belief of the undersigned that size, age, skill, disability and other disparate factors were in fact not taken into account in the May 1st 2012 incident where Andrew Messina was needlessly shot and killed by a sniper while emotionally distressed. It is the opinion that means of non-deadly force were not considered or used prior to the use of deadly force.
Andrew was a distraught ADHD 10th grade teenager, with a history of being bullied. Andrew originally picked up an unloaded handgun and threatened to hurt himself. Andrew’s mother called 911 for assistance and informed the 911 operator the gun was unloaded. The 911 operator instructed Andrew’s mother to leave the house, which she did. At that time the gun was not loaded.
When the police arrived, Andrew was alone in his house with no hostages. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, SWAT Team, and negotiators showed up in force with weapons pointed and stationed two team members approximately ten feet from the front door. As previously stated, Andrew was distraught and threatening to hurt himself. Andrew repeatedly pleaded with law enforcement that they not come near the house.
It is the further opinion of the undersigned that, as there were no hostages, there was no imminent danger to the public. The undersigned feel that Andrew’s parents and suicide prevention or mental health counselors should have been engaged to diffuse the situation.
Instead, in this case, Cherokee County negotiators failed to establish a rapport with Andrew. It is the further opinion of the undersigned that the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department exacerbated the situation and provoked a confrontation. In just over an hour, after Andrew used the gun to break a glass in the front door, a Cherokee County sniper shot and killed Andrew with a single bullet. The sniper stated that he fired this deadly shot thinking the sound of breaking glass was gunshot.
The undersigned further believe that the policies and procedures, as related to deadly force, should be amended to require that law enforcement officers reasonably attempt to ascertain the juveniles mental and emotional state, or other extenuating circumstances through witness accounts or other means available (i.e., family, counselors, physicians), before deadly force is applied and to make no overt action to exacerbate or aggravate the situation as long as no imminent or immediate danger exists. Tactics used by Cherokee County law enforcement escalated a situation that could have been diminished by proper training, by using available family and mental health counselors, and/or by having clearer definitions of how to proceed with juveniles in crisis. It is the opinion and belief of the undersigned that law enforcement on the scene attempted to rush a conclusion when backing off or buying time to calm the situation was called for.
The undersigned further believe that law enforcement should investigate non-lethal means of disabling a juvenile in crisis.
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