St. Martinville, LA -- On Monday, Barbara Noel requested an order for protective custody for her son Michael Noel from a local mental health agency. Michael, who's diagnosed with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, was in the midst of a psychotic episode and needed help. He was not violent.
“Everybody in the neighborhood knew Michael,” neighbor Daniel Wagner told the Advocate. “He’s totally nonviolent.”
Michael was talking to himself and began to diminish mentally, but agency members never showed, so Barbara called the local police for help. St. Martin Parish sheriff's deputies showed up to execute the order, but instead of subduing the unarmed, non-violent man, one deputy shot and killed Michael.
“I didn’t know they was gonna shoot him,” Barbara Noel said through tears on Tuesday.
As the Advocate reports,
While executing the order after 6 p.m. Monday, a St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputy shot Michael Noel in the chest after he resisted restraint and powered through two shocks from a stun gun, according to his mother and aunt, Sable “Pat” Alex, who both witnessed the shooting.
Both women said Michael Noel was unarmed with one handcuff around one wrist when he died near the doorway.
"That's a good fellow. A real nice fellow," said Norris Celestine, another neighbor. "And I'm not saying that because of what happened. He was just a real nice person. Would not hurt anyone."
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Barbara explained that her son was terrified of hospitals, courthouses, and police, but that police have successfully intervened in the past during a previous breakdown. When Barbara requested the order on Monday, she asked for someone trained in mental health care.
“(The Coroner’s Office) had to have somebody else than the police. A counselor or something,” she said. “I don’t think they (police) know anything to do about that — how to deal with a mental patient.”
Since the incident, police have been tight-lipped about the details. An autopsy was ordered on Wednesday. However, the results have yet to be publicized.
Both officers involved in the shooting death of Michael Noel have been placed on customary administrative leave.
As the Free Thought Project reported earlier this month, the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization dedicated to eliminating the barriers faced by those with severe mental illnesses, released a jaw-dropping report on police and the mentally ill. In their report titled, Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters, researchers discovered that people with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during an interaction with police than anyone else.
According to the study, by all accounts – official and unofficial – a minimum of 1 in 4 fatal police encounters ends the life of an individual with severe mental illness.
Tragically, Michael Noel now becomes one of those four.