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Police respond to suicide hotline call by killing man in his bed

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Police arrive with assault rifles to help suicidal man, minutes later he was shot dead

Justin Way, 28, had a history with alcohol abuse and mental health struggles.

He'd been sober for five weeks. Then he lost his job. On May 11, Justin's girlfriend found him at their condo in St. Johns, Florida, in bed with a bottle of vodka and a knife. He was threatening to hurt himself.

So his girlfriend, Kaitlin Christine Lyons, called a nonemergency number in an attempt to have Justin hospitalized under Florida's Baker Act, which allows law enforcement to institutionalize someone involuntarily so they can be stabilized. She told the dispatcher she didn't feel threatened.

"My brother has been Baker Acted three times because he was threatening to hurt himself, so I figured that would happen with Justin," said Lyons.

Just a few minutes later, two deputies arrived at the house — Jonas Carballosa, 26, and Kyle Baig. They were armed with assault rifles and told Kaitlin to wait outside. Minutes later, Justin was shot dead.

Justin's mom, Denise Way, says she was told by Detective Mike Smith that Justin was ordered to drop the knife, and when he didn't, they shot him. She says Detective Smith then went on to explain "suicide by cop," the act of a suicidal person threatening police to try to force them into killing them.

Although Justin's family says they haven't been told where or how many times Justin was shot, they believe he was still in his bed.

When asked about the use of assault rifles in this instance, St. Johns' County Sheriff's Office Commander Chuck Mulligan told The Daily Beast that the weapon the officers chose to brandish was irrelevant. "Whether it's a rifle or not, in many senses, is a non-issue," Commander Mulligan says. "A bullet comes out of a handgun, a bullet comes out of a rifle."

Way's parents say they've learned a tough lesson about trusting law enforcement, and say they don't think they'll ever get the nerve to call the police again.

Understandable.

If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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