Photo: Outside the downtown apartment complex after police murdered Mauris Nishanga DeSilvia.
By Jennifer Kelly
Last Wednesday, Mauris Nishanga DeSilvia, 46, wandered his apartment complex while having a mental health episode, holding a knife to his throat and banging on doors. Residents called the police asking for them to help him. Moments after police arrived, officers opened fire on DeSilvia, murdering him after he took two steps towards them. APD claims that a “Mental Health Officer” had been requested and was heading to the scene when the officers killed DeSilvia. Whether or not this is true would not have changed the deadly outcome.
According to APD’s own audit last year, the department has the highest per capita rate of police executions of the mentally ill in the 15 most populous cities in the country. Just a few short years ago, APD murdered 17-year-old black teenager David Joseph, unarmed and naked in the street, as he was going through a mental health episode. Officer Geoffrey Freeman, the one who killed David, was not charged.
This latest execution comes just days after body camera footage was released of a similar, more gruesome killing in Dallas three years ago. Tony Timpa, 32, who suffered from schizophrenia and depression had called 911, requesting help as he went through a schizophrenic episode.
Video footage shows officers pinning him to the ground for thirteen minutes, laughing as he pleads, “You’re gonna kill me,” and then goes limp and becomes unresponsive. The officers joked “Tony, time for school, wake up,” “I don’t wanna go to school, five more minutes mom,” and they laughed even as one officer said, “I hope I didn’t kill him.”
This is the way police respond to mental health episodes – execution. They do this because they hate and fear the masses and are opposed to their interests. They violently enforce bourgeois law, and only rarely do they face consequences for their violence, and so they act with impunity and cruelty.
One of the officers responsible for Timpa’s death said during a disciplinary hearing, “You know, it was kind of like relieving stress.” Timpa’s mother spoke correctly at a press conference when she said, “They started making jokes because it was fun for them.”
Mental illness, in large part, comes from the contradictions inherent in class society. Exploitation, oppression, alienation, and the capitalist relations of production, exacerbate and even produce in people mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and worse. According to several studies, rates of mental health illness in the United States, from diagnoses of anxiety and depression, to suicide attempts, have spiked in the last decade.
Under bourgeois rule with privatized healthcare, many cannot afford treatment for their mental health issues and those who can are often crushed with debt from medical bills. Even in so-called universal healthcare systems, the objective is to smooth over the contradictions of capitalism and manage its symptoms without curing the disease.
Under socialism, the conditions which cause the worsening crisis of mental health can be combated, and those that suffer from mental health issues will be cared for through socialized healthcare.
The destruction of class society and the bourgeois order is the only real solution to curing the crises of mental health, because it gets to the root of the problem. All defenders of the bourgeoisie, including the police, must be fought and defeated, and the whole of bourgeois society destroyed to make way for a new, better society under socialism where medical treatment will be provided to those in need without financial burden or fear of execution.