Amity Dimock, like all mothers, loves her son. She said, “Kobe was the first love of mine and my first child.” You can’t truly understand true love until you have children. Our bond was very special span>
Kobe Dimock Heisler, an autistic and mentally ill man, was shot to death by Brooklyn Center police on August 31, 2019. His grandfather had called 911 to report that their argument had escalated into threats of violence. His grandson’s extreme reaction was a concern.
Dimock stated that her 21-year old son had a history self-harm. Dimock Heisler called police to report that he was worried that his grandson might harm himself.
Dimock claimed that Kobe was calm before officers arrived and his grandfather called police to warn them not to arrive. It was too late. Four Brooklyn Center officers, Cody Turner, Cody Holt, and Joseph Vu, pulled up.
Reports of what took place at the scene can vary depending on who is reporting it. (Most of these events were captured by the officers’ body cameras. These images were made public. Dimock and her family claim that Dimock-Heisler’s grandfather met with the officers at the front door. He told them that they were not needed. However, they said that they would have to inspect everyone in the house to verify that everything was under control. They then entered the house.
Vu, a student, was assigned to Dimock-Heisler’s place of work while police were present. Dimock-Heisler was repeatedly tased as the situation escalated. He was upset by the possibility of being sent to a hospital for mental evaluation and ran away from officers. Police say he took a paring knife from a couch. According to the August 2020 report by the Hennepin County Attorney, Dimock-Heisler tried to stab Vu using the knife. His family object to this description. Officers shot him multiple times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Dimock-Heisler’s suicide adds to the growing number of mental health patients who have been shot by police officers. The family felt that justice was not being done when Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, announced his decision to not file charges against the officers involved in the case. They joined Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Twin Cities-based volunteer watchdog group, to file a federal wrongful-death civil suit against Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Michelle Gross, co-founder of CUAPB, stated that her organization did a reinvestigation on the case and concluded they had grounds for filing suit. She explained that CUAPB often reinvestigates cases.
Gross stated that one of our workgroups was a reinvestigation team. Gross stated that after the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), conducts their investigation, we go to reinvestigate any cases involving police brutality and death to determine if their investigation is of good quality. The BCA does not always do a good job in these cases .”
Sometimes these reinvestigations lead to legal action. Gross stated that sometimes, CUAPB decides that an organization’s lawyers have no basis to pursue a case.
She said that span style=”font weight: 400 Our lawyers cannot take on cases where there’s no basis.” We turn down cases because they aren’t supported. This is an excellent case. Our reinvestigation revealed things that led us believe that the police made serious errors. I don’t think Kobe had to die that day .”
The CUAPB reinvestigation group claims that Akers turned away a fifth officer who showed up that day — Sarah Frye, an officer they say is a nationally-recognized expert in handling domestic calls.
Jason M. Hiveley is an attorney representing the City of Brooklyn Center as well as the officers involved in the case. He declined to comment further. He said that they were currently evaluating the allegations in the complaint and would be filing their answer within the next few weeks.
Gross stated that CUAPB views lawsuits such as this as a way for CUAPB to challenge accepted methods of policing.
She said that she believes it was important to file lawsuits to try to change policies. It is an effective tool we can use to make changes in these types of cases .”
“A mental illness crisis is not a criminal matter”
Gross believes that it is too common for people in mental health crises to interact with police. This can lead to serious consequences. Gross’s organization is working hard to change this reality.
“What is known is that 50% of those killed by police have a psychological diagnosisspan=”font-weight 400 ;”>,”,” she stated. She said that “quite a lot of them were in a mental crisis at the time they were killed.” This was .”
These incidents led to the formation of a mental-health work group in 2019. Gross stated that the group wrote a strong white paper about ending police-only mental health crisis responses in early 2019. CUAPB formed a mental health work group in response to these incidents. The law requires that state 911 center dispatchers send mental crisis teams to all mental health crises calls.
Gross stated that the law required 911 dispatchers to use these teams when necessary. Travis’ Law only required dispatchers use these teams when necessary. She stated: “We are asking 911 for education on how to spot mental health crisis calls, and send mental healthcare responders first span>
Gross stated that it was “absolutely unacceptable protocol” to dispatch police to help someone in crisis. People should try to de-escalate when they are facing a mental health crisis. Police are often not skilled at de-escalation .”
Gross claimed that Vu was seen standing next to Dimock-Heisler on the day of the murder and asking him questions. Mental health professionals who are trained in responding to mental health crises know that it is best to speak with someone in crisis in a calm, low voice. This allows them to respond in their own time.
Gross stated that while police presence can be helpful in some situations, officers aren’t trained to calm someone like Dimock-Heisler during a crisis. Travis’ Law’s purpose is to ensure that the right professionals are available in the right situations.
span style=”font weight: 400 If there is a fire in the house,” she stated that “the fire department should be first responders.” If I have chest pains, I want an ambulance and not the police span>
Gross believes that a mental illness is legal. This approach supports Gross. “By removing law enforcement from the situation, we are implying that a mental illness is not a criminal matter. Why do we criminalize mental health? It doesn’t work, and it’s wrong. We are trying to get the right people to respond .”
His cards are stacked against him
CUAPB is a volunteer-run group, but the two lawyers who file cases for them are paid employees. Paul Bosman is a Twin Cities lawyer who works full-time for the group. He stated that he believed the BCA’s investigation and Freeman’s decision to not bring charges in this case were flawed. Dimock-Heisler was a 6’3″ Black man who had autism and mental illness.
Bosman stated that people of color with mental illnesses are more likely to encounter police in negative situations. People of color with mental illnesses are more likely to encounter negative outcomes with the police .”
After the officers entered Dimock-Heisler’s grandparents’ house, Dimock-Heisler was almost certain to be shot. Bosman stated: “It is reasonable for someone to believe that Kobe was large and Black and had a mental illness so he had a greater chance of having a negative outcome with the police.” Did it have to do with his mental illness, being young and African American? Did it have to do with all three of these things ?”
Bosman stated that Dimock-Heisler was also developmental delayed. This fact will be the centerpiece of his case. He said that a professional who has worked with individuals in mental health crisis may have been able recognize the young man’s frustration and respond appropriately. The Brooklyn Center police did not do this.
span style=”font weight: 400 We’re talking about someone who has the mental capacity of a child and may have been using a 3-inch paring knife. Four officers are present in the room to manage him. Instead, the officer in charge fires a shot down and kills Kobe. It’s a tragedy in every way .”
Lori Bardal, a CUAPB volunteer, is a member the expanded response subcommittee that was created as part Brooklyn Center’s Daunte Frank and Kobe Dimock–Heisler Community Safety Prevention Resolution. Both groups support appropriate 911 response for people in mental crisis.
span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” We’re leaning towards the co-response approach, where a street-clothed mental health professional will be first in. It won’t cause an increase in the situation by having the police officer be visible around the corner. If they are in need of it .”
Bardal stated that police often portray the victim of a suicide as a bad person. However, tragedy can be avoided if mental health professionals are available during a crisis. “Kobe wasn’t a criminal. He was having a bad day. Everyone has bad days. She said, “You shouldn’t die from that.”
“He has never hurt anyone in his entire life”
Dimock said that she is not anti-police and finds it troubling how police reports seem to emphasize Kobe’s largeness as a factor in officers’ decision to use deadly force. She said that they start with his size, but don’t mention that he had the mindset of a 9-year old. He was basically a child in a large, tall body span>
Dimock stated that her three years since her son’s death sometimes felt like it had been an instant. Sometimes it feels like it has been a lifetime. She views the CUAPB suit as a way for her to clear her son’s name and hold the officers responsible for his death accountable. She wants them all to understand that Kobe was a person who matters — a creative soul who enjoyed riding his bicycle rickshaws along with his father in the annual May Day Parade. He also loved crocheting and dreamed of one day cooking for a living.
Dimock wants people know that the suit is more than just financial gain.span styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>” The only recourse I have to this is a civil case. If you think that it’s only about money, screw you. It’s about my child. He has never once hurt anyone in his entire life. It was wrong. It was wrong. I won’ .”