Gomez Family: Man Killed by Pharr Police was Mentally Ill
PHARR - The attorney for the family of a Pharr man killed last Tuesday in an officer-involved shooting said he suffered a mental health illness.
Pharr Police Chief Ruben Villescas said 46-year-old Martin Gomez exited the front door when officers arrived at the 200 block of East Emil.
He said he charged at two Pharr police officers while holding a knife in each hand. He was then shot by the two officers. Gomez was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Lino Ochoa, attorney for the Gomez family, said Gomez was holding a butter knife. He said the family had called police to help with the situation and take away Gomez to get treatment.
Ochoa said this isn’t the first time Pharr police responded to the Gomez home. He’s now calling for more training for officers in the Rio Grande Valley.
“There is no reason for Mr. Gomez to have been killed. (They had) the option of using a Taser. Why didn’t they use a Taser? They should not have killed Mr. Gomez,” he said.
Ochoa said the current mental health population needs more attention.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned all peace officers in the state have to take a course on how to properly deal with mental illness.
A mental health task force was created in the Rio Grande Valley a few years ago to defuse situations involving a mentally ill person. A total of 20 people, some from various local police departments, are part of this force.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS also reached out to a few police departments in the Valley. We wanted to know what type of training officers receive when it comes to responding to mental health calls.
Palmview police said all of its officers are required to take crisis intervention training. He said it’s a 16-hour course where officers learn how to handle people with mental health illnesses. A spokesperson with the department added all Texas peace officers are required to take the training.
We asked Pharr police if they have any policies or extra training when handling these types of cases. They did not respond to our request by news time.
“What we think is important is that the general public become more aware of mental health issues, and that the public wait to determine what they believe happens until all the evidence comes out,” Ochoa said.
The two officers involved in the shooting are currently on paid administrative leave until the investigation is completed.
The Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting.