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Disturbed Man Slain by Officers : Shooting: Mental patient is shot to death in Montrose after threatening deputies and passersby with a broken crutch, authorities say.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a mentally troubled Montrose man early Sunday after he lunged at them with a broken metal crutch he had been using to threaten drivers and pedestrians, authorities said.

Paramedics pronounced Aaron Cease, 30, dead shortly after midnight. He was shot several times after he threatened deputies who repeatedly ordered him to drop the crutch, said Deputy Britta Tubbs.

The dead man’s mother said her son had been seeing a psychiatrist every month for the past 12 years for “major depression,” and was using the single crutch for a weak ankle he had broken earlier this year. “He has never been threatening on the street like that before,” said Doreen Cease.

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Deputies had responded to a call of a man standing in Montrose Avenue and threatening motorists and pedestrians with the sharp, jagged end of the broken crutch, Tubbs said. Deputies told Cease to drop the crutch, but he refused and threatened to kill them, Tubbs said.

“He was yelling that the deputies would have to kill him or he would kill them,” said Deputy Matthew Rodriguez.

Authorities said the two deputies, whose names were not released Sunday, tried to calm Cease for several minutes. But Cease kept swinging the crutch at the deputies, following them closely as they tried to back away, Tubbs said.

After shadowing the officers for about 120 feet, Cease lunged at them with the crutch, Tubbs said. The officers fired at Cease. It was unclear Sunday how many shots were fired or how many struck Cease.

The shooting outraged Cease’s mother, who questioned why the deputies did not use less than deadly force to subdue her son. “Why didn’t they use Mace or a stun gun?” she asked. “We just don’t understand why they had to use such measures.”

But Rodriguez said the deputies shot Cease only when they feared he would hurt them. “The deputies didn’t shoot him when he was 20 feet away or only 10 feet away. They shot him when they thought they were going to be stabbed,” Rodriguez said.

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Cease saw her son for the last time Saturday when she took his dinner to his apartment, about a half-mile from her La Crescenta home. He had lived alone for five years, she said.

She said she intends to look into law enforcement’s handling of people with mental illnesses. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about the police shooting mental patients, but I never thought it would happen to my son,” Cease said.

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