Did I do the right thing?

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Did I do the right thing?

Post by Kiskadee on Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:15 am

So, what's done is done, but now I'm really second guessing myself...

I was out alone walking this evening near my apartment (in a city), when a homeless-looking man approached and loudly threatened to kill me. I didn't think he was armed, and walked away quickly to avoid provoking him. He was extremely angry and continued to shout and follow slowly but didn't attack. This took place across the street from a park with children. When I got home, I hesitated to call 911, since he was probably severely mentally ill and unarmed. He was also black, which shouldn't have anything to do with it, but obviously could affect the potential police response.

I ended up calling the police, but repeatedly told the dispatcher that the man seemed unarmed and just crazy. What would you have done? When would you consider homelessness+mental illness an excuse?
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Re: Did I do the right thing?

Post by Enail on Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:53 am

Oh, that sounds really scary, Kiskadee, sorry that happened to you. Even if unarmed, being followed and threatened is...very, very not fun.  I think calling the police was a very reasonable thing to do; it sounds like you took pains to try and preempt any harm that might be done to him by it, and I don't see that ignoring that level of threateningness would really make sense or be giving your own safety enough weight.

"Excuse" doesn't quite seem like the right way to think of it to me. One could say it might not be his fault that he's behaving that way, because it's plausible that he might not be in the kind of state where he's able to act the way he might otherwise choose to. But you're not really looking to assign blame, I don't think, you're dealing with the pragmatic question of "someone is behaving extremely threateningly towards me, what do I do?"  And however much compassion you might have for his situation and how much benefit of the doubt you might give that the threat is not sincere, I don't think that erases the need to do something about it.
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Re: Did I do the right thing?

Post by reboot on Mon Nov 30, 2015 2:13 am

You can harm or kill someone without a weapon. And, even if he is mentally ill, he is behaving in a way that is threatening to others and, if it happens with the wrong person, could put him in harm's way.

Unfortunately, a 911 call with a police response is the only option we have available outside the handful of cities with mental health crisis response teams, for situations like this. You did what you felt was the best option in a bad situation.
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Re: Did I do the right thing?

Post by Caffeinated on Mon Nov 30, 2015 1:33 pm

That sounds really stressful. Given the circumstances, I don't see what else you could have done.
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Re: Did I do the right thing?

Post by eselle28 on Mon Nov 30, 2015 1:55 pm

That sounds really scary, and I'm sorry that happened to you. I think that the things you mentioned are an "excuse" insofar as I think the man you described probably needs help more than he needs punishment. But I don't think that has much to do with calling the police or not. It sounds like his behavior was dangerous to others and needed intervention, and unfortunately, the police are really the only option in those cases available to citizens - even if they shouldn't be.
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Re: Did I do the right thing?

Post by Kiskadee on Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:46 pm

Thanks. I'm with you that "excuse" wasn't really the right word in this case, since obviously people shouldn't be allowed to act that way. But it seemed like he was specifically targeting me as a woman, and it also seems like more homeless people feel free to shout misogynistic slurs at women because they are statistically less likely to retaliate violently. In these cases it seems kind of gray since they are clearly not in 100% control of their minds, but they also seem to still have enough sense to not select a tough-looking guy who might just shoot them or something. But of course I wouldn't have called the police if he had just limited himself to swearing and calling me a bitch.

Reboot, I looked it up after you mentioned it, and my city does have a mental health crisis response team, but it's not 24/7 and would have been closed when this particular incident happened. I'll keep that in mind, though, in case something similar happens later.
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