School knew Cal State San Bernardino student was bipolar, family says
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The family of a Cal State San Bernardino graduate student who was fatally shot by campus police Saturday released a statement late Tuesday confirming that the man was bipolar and enrolled as a disabled student when he was killed.
The statement, written by the older sister of 38-year-old Bartholomew Williams, also said the dead man received his mental health counseling and medications through the university’s student health services.
The sister, 43-year-old Portia Mount, said her family was disturbed by the mischaracterization of her brother as a “monster” by the university and police.
“We want to make sure that all of the facts are made very clear to the public,” Mount told The Times. “We really want to ensure that police are properly trained in dealing with people with mental disabilities and that they are properly trained to use non-lethal force to subdue an individual.
“I don’t believe the police acted in a way designed to preserve my brother’s life,” she said.
Three Cal State San Bernardino police officers struggled with Williams for about seven minutes Saturday evening at an off-campus housing complex before growing fearful for their own safety and shooting him, authorities said.
Williams was unarmed, but allegedly demonstrated ‘super-human-type strength’ during the struggle. He used the officers’ own pepper spray against them and grabbed one of their batons, according to Lt. Paul Williams, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department, which is investigating the shooting.
The police spokesman said there was no additional information in the case Tuesday. But he added that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act might prohibit the release of a student’s medical records to law enforcement.
University spokesman Sid Robinson said he was also unclear on whether a student’s private medical files could be released to police but said investigators were examining the case ‘top to bottom.’
‘There is nobody on our police force that wanted to see the results that came,’ Robinson said. ‘We are sensitive to this issue. This was just unfortunate for everybody involved. Our hearts go out to the Williams family.’
But Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, released a statement Tuesday that called the family’s new information “troubling.”
The details about Williams’ condition, “and the university and police’s knowledge of his condition … seriously call into question the circumstances of the confrontation and killing,” Hutchinson said in his statement. “The family’s call for an independent probe to find out the truth about the killing is now more compelling than ever.”
School officials said that Williams was pursuing a master’s degree in educational instructional technology and that he had first enrolled in summer 2011. Mount said her brother also held a master’s degree in library science, adding that he was a “terrific writer” and enjoyed sports.
--Matt Stevens and Sam Allen