Three deputies who shot and killed a man as he experienced a mental health crisis in a Broward County psychiatric hospital used justifiable deadly force under Florida Law, according to Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor.
The state attorney decided not to prosecute Broward sheriff’s deputies, outraging Jarvis Randall’s mother, Angela Randall.
“I am disheartened and appalled at the fact that nobody wants to be responsible for my son’s death,” she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday. She said that never in her 36 years working as a dialysis nurse has she seen a police department come into a mental health facility without the hospital’s security team handling it first.
“This is how we’re going to treat our mental health patients now?” she asked incredulously. “These facilities are supposed to be a safe haven for patients like that. We’re blown away.”
Deputies Christian Silva, Robert O’Dor and Mitchell Machado shot 30-year-old Jarvis Randall at least a dozen times during the encounter inside University Hospital and Medical Center’s behavioral health center in Tamarac in December 2018. According to the prosecutors’ close-out memo, the deputies “reasonably believed that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or other persons.”
Randall posed a threat to deputies “by ignoring verbal commands and charging towards the officers while armed with sharp pieces of plexiglass shards,” the memo reads.
Randall was airlifted to the emergency room after the shooting, where doctors pronounced him dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Pryor met with Randall’s family this past week to explain their investigative findings and the decision not to prosecute, according to State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Paula McMahon. He also expressed his sincere condolences to the family, she said.
Michael Bernstein, a lawyer representing the family, said they were angry, upset and confused. “Jarvis’ sister asked a question that if a gang of people out on the street that weren’t police officers gunned down an innocent man with at least 12 entrance wounds, would that have been justified? How is that justified?”
A deadly encounter
Randall was receiving treatment at the hospital for “severe depression” and “psychosis,” according to a physician’s diagnostic report written the day Randall was admitted.
About 10:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 2018, employees from University Pavilion Hospital called 911 to request law enforcement assistance with Randall, “who was being violent while armed with glass and a pencil,” the State Attorney’s Office found in the investigation.
Randall had contained himself in an enclosed hallway in one of the hospital units, according to the investigation. The report says he was armed with two pieces of sharp plexiglass shards he broke from the hospital ceiling lighting.
Hospital workers told investigators that two deputies tried to coax Randall into talking with them, but he said he didn’t want to talk. That’s when they say he broke glass from the ceiling, wrapped the glass in a towel and told deputies he wanted them to kill him, the report says.
The deputies responded first with “less lethal” weapons in the moments before they took aim, fired and killed him.
Randall’s family released surveillance footage from the hospital in August. It shows Randall bounding down the hallway toward the deputies who retreated behind a closed door.
A legal battle ahead
Randall’s family is suing the hospital for damages in the killing.
“We are very disappointed, but our civil case in federal court is pending, and we are exploring whether the federal government will bring an independent investigation in terms of federal civil rights violations.” Bernstein said.
Attorneys representing University Medical Center couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon. They’ve denied any wrongdoing on the hospital’s part in court, and instead blamed Randall for failing to follow the officers’ warnings, records show.
Attorneys representing the hospital argued Randall “failed to observe and follow warnings and instructions” and that any damages in the family’s complaint are a result of that failure, records show. Therefore, any award Randall’s family might be entitled to should be barred or reduced, they argued in court filings. They refused to settle out of court and demanded a jury trial.
The shooting felt particularly shocking to Randall’s mother because her son admitted himself into the facility on her advice. He had recently moved from Atlanta to South Florida, and his father had died the week before. She encouraged him to seek help for depression he was experiencing.
The reason he wanted to leave the facility was to attend his father’s funeral, she said. Hospital staff would not let him leave. That’s when the episode started, and Randall ended up dead. She lost her ex-husband and her son one week after the other.
“I would like to see this standard change for the mental health community,” she said. “How do we move forward dealing with our mental health patients who are inside facilities?”