Family of mentally ill man shot by Independence officer question use of deadly force

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Relatives of a mentally ill man are questioning how police responded to their call for help.

An officer shot and killed Carlos Cruz, 50, on Jan. 8, after he allegedly pointed a gun toward police.

"I felt like the first opportunity they had, they fired," said Rebecca Wigington, the victim's mother.

Wigington said she called 911 thinking that police would help her son, not kill him.

She said Cruz was threatening to take his own life and had a shotgun.

"I had assumed they would bring a negotiator," she said. "I would have assumed they would bring somebody with mental health experience. And they would have been able to handle it."

Instead, Wigington said she watched from a few feet away as an officer shot and killed her son, less than 20 minutes after she first called police to her Independence Ridge apartment. Wigington claims she never saw Cruz point the shotgun at officers.

"Whether my brother pointed the gun at the police officers, I don`t know," said Staci Coffman, the man's sister. "I`m not saying the police are in the wrong or in the right. All I am saying is they shot and fatally killed my brother when we called to ask for help to talk him down."

Independence police declined to comment on the family`s concerns, saying that this shooting is still being actively investigated.

But police do have one full-time crisis intervention officer and dozens of others have received crisis intervention training for situations like this one.

"My number one goal is that every time officers go out, rather than put themselves in peril and the person on the other side, they have a negotiator," Wigington said.

Wigington's family said they're filing a complaint about how police handled their call, believing Cruz didn't have to die.

They said they don't want any other family with a suicidal loved one to experience the same tragic result from a call for help.

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