Officials: Man with sword shot by police was involved in prior standoff, released from mental care

The barricaded suspect had been taken into custody and sent to a hospital for treatment only to be released the next day, police said


By George Hunter
The Detroit News

DETROIT — A man who was killed by police July 30 after reportedly wielding a sword and throwing a dagger at an officer was arrested weeks earlier as a barricaded gunman, and sent to a hospital for mental health treatment — only to be released the next day, police said.

Darrien Walker, 28, on July 4 allegedly pointed a gun at a neighbor before barricading himself in a house in the 1000 block of Aurora on the city's west side, chief James Craig said.

A Thursday, July 30, 2020 photo shows blood on the sword police say the suspect swung at officers. (Detroit Police Department via AP)
A Thursday, July 30, 2020 photo shows blood on the sword police say the suspect swung at officers. (Detroit Police Department via AP)

"We got a call that there was a neighbor dispute, and that a man had supposedly pointed a gun at the neighbor, or brandished it," Craig said. "By the time the Special Response Team arrived, the man had left the house. We identified him and were able to locate him and take him into custody."

Police took Walker to Detroit Receiving Hospital's Crisis Center, where police refer suspected mentally ill citizens for evaluation.

"He was back on the street in less than 24 hours," Craig said. "So our officers tried to get this obviously mentally ill person some treatment, but what good did it do? What kind of treatment, if any, did (hospital staff) give him? Or was he just released? We don't know."

Detroit Medical Center spokesman Jason Barczy said Thursday he couldn't confirm or deny Craig's claim because he isn't allowed to release any information about patients.

Craig said Walker was one of 15 barricaded gunmen calls his officers have responded to since May 28.

"The vast majority of barricaded suspects are suffering from mental illness," Craig said. "We need to get them the help they need, because when that doesn't happen, you end up with tragedies like last week. Our officers had to use fatal force on this man because of his violent behavior."

Walker was released from probation April 25, after he pleaded guilty to assaulting a Detroit cop in 2017, according to court records. There's no indication in his Wayne County Circuit Court and Michigan Department of Corrections online files that he received mental health treatment.

Police, mental health experts and relatives of people with mental illnesses have long complained about the cycle of patients being turned away for treatment because there's no bed space, and when they go back into the community, they often have violent encounters with police that sometimes end in death.

Less than a month after Walker was released from Detroit Receiving Hospital, he donned dark clothing and a protective vest, grabbed two swords and a dagger, and began walking through his neighborhood. Neighbors told The Detroit News he often stalked the neighborhood so dressed, although they say he'd never been violent.

Detroit cops, who were on their way to another run about 7:15 p.m. July 30 spotted the sword-wielding man walking near Grand River and Meyers, and stopped to investigate.

The officers exited their squad car, and "as soon as the officers got out of their vehicle, the suspect began to run toward them, swinging the sword," Craig said hours after the incident. "They asked him several times to drop the weapon. He refused. Instead, he continued to advance."

Walker didn't comply, so one of the officers deployed his Taser, but it didn't take effect because of Walker's protective body gear, which Craig said was similar to that worn by hockey players.

"At some point, I'm not sure if it was before or after (the Taser was used), the suspect took out a second sharp object ... an 8-inch dagger; threw it in the direction of the officer, striking the officer below the right eye," Craig said.

A short video posted to Facebook shows an officer repeatedly telling Walker to drop his weapon, as the officer walks backward. The cop uses a police SUV as a shield, but Walker is seen on the clip flinging the dagger at the officer from around a corner of the vehicle, striking the cop.

At one point, Walker jumped into the SUV, and a motorist, Andre Johnson, used his car to pin Walker in the vehicle.

"(Walker) went after the officers,” Johnson told The News the night of the incident. “Officers asked him about three or four times to put the weapons down. They Tased him, but that didn’t stop him, and then he pulled out this knife they make in Nepal and he ran after the officers."

After Johnson pinned Walker in the SUV, officers took him into custody. He died while en route to a hospital, Craig said.

"This whole thing could have been prevented," the chief said. "It's indicative of a broken system."

©2020 The Detroit News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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