MESA, AZ — Mesa police have released video showing last week’s fatal shooting of Jim Schild as the man’s family questions the officers' tactics just prior to his death.
The family tells ABC15 that police made no effort to deescalate the situation or involve crisis services even after a relative on scene told officers Jim was in a behavioral health crisis.
Jim, 49, was shot at 7:45 a.m. on January 3 after a neighbor called to report a trespasser in the backyard.
Jim’s family members said they had already called the police non-emergency line earlier that morning seeking crisis intervention, and Jim’s brother had told an officer on the scene that the man was experiencing psychosis, likely due to drug use.
“How did this go from zero to dead in minutes?” Steve Schild, Jim’s brother said. Steve added Jim was a favorite uncle to his 19 nieces and nephews because he “had a gift to share, spread love.” While Jim had been to prison in the past, he was clean and working in construction until a methamphetamine relapse at Christmas time.
“I didn't ever think it would end that way,” said Barbara Schild, Jim’s mom. Barbara said when Jim was high he would be delusional believing “demons are after him.”
That morning, Barbara called Mesa’s non-emergency police number and was later transferred to the crisis line. She reported Jim was missing and she wanted help to find him and get him into treatment. A short time later, the neighbor across the street spotted a man in their backyard and called 911.
Steve was relieved his brother was found and said he thought the officers would help.
“I thought, okay, they got him surrounded,” said Steve, who briefed one of the officers on his brother’s condition. "[The officer] got his non-lethal shotgun, and they're going to gonna take care of him.”
Steve said he never heard that officer relay the behavioral health information, which he thought could have better-guided the police response.
Thursday afternoon, a Mesa police spokesman told ABC15 that the officer radioed out that Jim may be high on drugs. Based on that information, Mesa police said, based on that information, additional officers responded to the scene.
Mesa police released some officer body-cam video and home security camera video of the shooting. The videos showed officers peering through the gate to the backyard and telling each other Jim had a metal framing square, was crouching at first, then was “coming this way.”
At that point, officers open the gate, immediately yelled for Jim to “drop it” twice, and start firing bean bag rounds and a Taser.
Jim’s family questioned why the officers made no effort to deescalate the situation and ask Jim to drop the tool prior to opening the gate. They said officers did not even announce themselves or warn Jim they would shoot.
“It would be nice if crisis [a crisis response team] could have been called out, they kept the gate locked and didn't call him out,” Jim’s brother Walter Schild said. “Have those trained crisis experts try to defuse the situation for a better outcome.”
Thursday, Mesa police said their officer never “made verbal contact” with Jim until after they unlocked and opened the gate. A spokesman also wrote in an email that officers on scene were not aware of Jim’s history or his mother’s earlier call for assistance.
Since the day of the shooting, police officials have focused on what happened in the few seconds after the non-lethal rounds were fired.
“The suspect exited the backyard with a large metal tool in his hand and was actually charging at the officers," Sgt. Chuck Trapani, a Mesa Police Department spokesman said on January 3. “As they retreated, the subject again charged at them with that large metal object, leaving them no other choice but to discharge their duty weapons.“
Two officers fired on Jim, killing him.
“This was all preventable and avoidable,” Steve Schild said.
The family has called the mayor’s office and other city officials to urge Mesa to create stronger policies and training emphasizing police de-escalation and to establish a citizen police review board like other major cities have.
“We obviously want to police safety, but we are not for safe policing if you tear up the Constitution at the same time,” Walter Schild said.
While grieving themselves, the Schilds want to bring changes that save other families from their pain.
Mesa police say their investigation into the shooting is ongoing, and they plan to release more information and video next week.