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CSU to pay $2.5 million to family of slain mentally ill student

CSU Board of Trustees to pay $2.5 million to family of slain student who suffered from bipolar disorder
Family of graduate student killed by CSU San Bernardino police to get $2.5 million in settlement
As part of settlement reached with family of slain student, CSU San Bernardino police must undergo training

The California State University Board of Trustees will pay $2.5 million to the family of a mentally ill graduate student shot and killed two years ago by Cal State University San Bernardino police.

Although the CSU board members denied fault in the shooting death of 38-year-old Bartholomew Williams, they agreed to pay the settlement and plan to make changes on campus, according to a joint statement issued by the board and his family's attorneys.

The board also agreed to revise the campus' crisis intervention policies, as well as require its police officers to undergo and complete at least 32 hours of training for crisis intervention, which will be coordinated with area mental health professionals.

"Although nothing can change the fact that our only son was taken away from us, we are gratified that the university will make the necessary policy and training changes so that hopefully no other family will have this devastating experience,” Williams' mother, Barbara Williams, said in a statement.

The board declined further comment.

Williams was reportedly confused and distressed because of his bipolar disorder Dec. 8, 2012, when three officers went to his off-campus dorm room in response to a disturbance call, according to his family's attorneys.

Williams, who was working on a second master's degree, needed help but did not pose a threat, said family attorney V. James DeSimone.

He had reportedly agreed to meet with a doctor but an altercation ensued when officers tried to take him to a hospital to be evaluated.

Police and school officials said he became aggressive, and the officers feared for their safety and fired their weapons.

Williams used the officers' own pepper spray against them and grabbed one of their batons, said Lt. Paul Williams, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department, which investigated the incident.

But DeSimone said Williams never struck the officers. Instead, he said, Williams was punched in the face and beaten 35 to 45 times with a baton while one of his hands was cuffed.

DeSimone contended the officers resorted to using force instead of crisis intervention tactics.

"This was a tragic instance where a student needed psychological help," he said in the statement.

DeSimone said he hopes the new changes will help address an "endemic problem" among police agencies, which he said need to train their officers to properly handle the mentally ill.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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