Debate over South Bend mental health crisis response services continues

By Gemma DiCarlo | WVPE 88.1 Elkhart/South Bend

South Bend activists and city leaders continue to debate the city’s fledgling mental health crisis response services.

The argument was prompted by the death of Dante Kittrell, who was armed and in the midst of a mental health crisis when South Bend police shot and killed him late last month.

At a town hall meeting earlier this week, community members said more should have been done to prevent Dante’s death.

“He was in the middle of a field. The police could have created a perimeter all the way around the edge and then let the mother, let the pastor, let somebody go talk to him,” local Faith in Indiana leader Andre Stoner said. “They could have let him have four hours to walk around and maybe — who knows what would have happened? He could have laid down and fallen asleep.”

Following the shooting, council members Lori Hamann and Henry Davis Junior authored a resolution calling for the city to create a crisis response team within the fire department.

But it was shot down by other city leaders, including the mayor and fire chief. They said the focus should be on existing services — namely, the pilot crisis response team operated by Oaklawn.

Oaklawn representative Kelli Liechty said at the town hall meeting that the team began responding to calls this spring and is working to set up a protocol with law enforcement.

“We acknowledge as well that we have not moved fast enough,” she said. “I wish we could have done better for Dante. I wish we would have done better for the community today.”

Activists held a press conference Friday afternoon to call for a meeting with city leaders.

The city plans to hold its own community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, in the Brown Intermediate School gymnasium.

A release from the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office says the St. Joseph County and Mishawaka Police Departments are continuing their joint investigation into Kittrell’s death.

The release says investigators are waiting for ballistics testing from an independent firearms expert. Results are expected next week, after which investigators will present their case to the prosecutor’s office.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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