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Police identify mental health patient killed in police shooting

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 21:38:03-04

PHOENIX — Phoenix police have released the name of the mental health patient killed by police Tuesday.

According to a spokesperson, 22-year-old Matthew Begay was going towards police holding a knife when an officer opened fire around 10 a.m. near 111th Avenue and Camelback Road.

Begay was staying at Angel Heart Behavioral Health.

According to police, a manager said he was making suicidal statements and threats against staff so they called 911.

As ABC15 previously reported, police said they requested a mental health crisis team and an officer with crisis intervention training. However, neither arrived before the shooting.

Police said they were dispatched at 10:03 a.m. and asked for the help before arriving on scene.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson with the department said more than 500 sworn personnel have CIT training. However, none of them were on the scene when the shooting happened.

Michael Scott, the director of Arizona State University’s Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, said the shooting is unfortunate for everyone involved.

“My initial reaction was pretty quick,” he said. “It was of great regret and disappointment for obviously the young man whose life was taken but also the officers involved,."

According to Scott, there’s no nationwide policy when departments use mobile crisis teams but said they do help to deescalate situations when people are having a mental health episode.

“Depending on what information was provided to the call taker and initial call, if it’s understood to be a possible suicide, typically Phoenix police, like most police departments, would mobilize both the patrol officers and also, if they’re available, crisis intervention officers or mental health professionals.”

The department also has two squads with four to five officers each dedicated to crisis intervention.

Scott said even with hundreds of officers trained, departments can always use more resources.

"Much depends on what else is happening, what else is occupying police officers and how far they are when they get the call,” he said. “Here in Phoenix we're a very big city and even if officers are immediately available it may take officers several minutes to drive there."

In addition to police, the area has a few different groups that respond to mental health calls including La Frontera.

Wendy Philpot is the group’s director of crisis and trauma healing services.

She told ABC15 that her agency gets about 1,000 calls a month.

However, only 4% require police presence.

“The remainder is the community calling for themselves or third-party individuals,” she said.

According to Philpot, crisis teams may try to address issues on their own but would typically call police if a subject had a weapon like a gun or a knife.

“The mental health community is not typically dangerous. Some are, obviously, some turn into a bad situation but, in general, the mental health community is not a dangerous community and situations like this — whether people believe the officers were right or wrong — will highlight mental health as a scary and that’s not always the case.”

ABC15 did reach out to Angel Heart Behavioral Health for a comment but never heard back.