Mentally Ill Man Dies After Being Abandoned by Cop in Orangeburg, SC

In Orangeburg, SC, a mentally ill man was killed on the side of a road where police and EMS left him.

It’s just the latest example of law enforcement officers callously disregarding a person who needs help due to mental illness. Sometimes police walk away and leave them. Sometimes police will arrest them without concern for the mental illness that is causing their behavior. Other times police will shoot and kill a mentally ill person after they were called for help.

It’s a serious issue that still needs to be addressed by law enforcement, legislatures, and courts nationwide – police and court personnel need to be trained 1) to recognize mental illness, and 2) in how to help a mentally ill person (without killing them).

Of course, no legislation can make a police officer or judge care. And, despite the long list of tragedies perpetrated by police or judges on mentally ill persons, my experience is that most police officers and court personnel do care. It’s the ones who don’t who are the subject of this article.

Mentally Ill Man Abandoned by Cop and EMS in Orangeburg, SC

Police were called after a trucker spotted a man walking down the highway naked in Orangeburg County:

A trucker had alerted police after spotting Tarashuk walking down the highway naked.

Officers from three different law enforcement agencies showed up, along with EMS, and assessed Tarashuk before sending him on his way with Doroski. The first responders had allegedly grown impatient with Tarashuk, due to him not obeying their commands and cursing at them.

It was late, the paramedics and officers were tired, and they just didn’t feel like dealing with the crazy man walking naked down the road:

“I’m being f–king serious. I’m sleepy,” one responder can be heard telling Tarashuk. “Give me your damn name so I can go home, for real. I’m tired.”

Paramedics gave him an ammonia capsule then a sheriff’s deputy took the man to a nearby gas station and left him in the parking lot – a gas station that was closed with no phones or way to contact anyone. Five hours later, his dead body was found on the side of the same road where the police left him:

The young man wound up being hit and killed by a car on the very same road where he was picked up — with his body being found roughly five hours later, his family says.

“He was escorted by an officer to his death,” Tarashuk’s mother, Cindy, told CBS News.

“It’s just watching him walk to his death,” she said of the bodycam video.

The man suffered from schizoaffective disorder and was having a psychotic episode when he was abandoned by the sheriff’s deputy at the gas station.

What should they have done? At a minimum, they should have transported him to a hospital where he could have been evaluated and received treatment for his condition. If police find a man on the side of the road with a broken leg, would they abandon him at a gas station?

How is Mental Illness Treated by the Law?

Police, legislators, prosecutors, and judges will all tell you that the law takes mental illness into account. We want to help mentally ill persons, not hurt them…

The reality, sometimes, begs to differ.

Need Help with Mental Illness? Don’t Call the Police…

If you ever find yourself in a situation where a family member or any person you care about is having a psychotic episode and needs help, who do you call?

Most people think, if you need help, you call the police. We’ve been taught since we were children that the police are there to help when we need them, right? Except, when you call the police, you don’t know what you are going to get. Police officers are as likely to shoot and kill a mentally ill person (or someone else) as they are to help them.

A friend of mine handled a case where law enforcement was called because a mentally ill man was yelling in his yard and had threatened one of his neighbors. The neighbor knew he was mentally ill. The police were told he was mentally ill before they arrived.

When a police officer arrived, the man approached him, with no weapons, and, according to the officer, threatened to kill the officer. Although the man had no weapons, the officer had other means to subdue the man, and the man wasn’t even close to the officer, the officer shot and killed him within seconds of arriving at the home. The sheriff’s department later settled the wrongful death lawsuit with the man’s widow.

In another case, a 16-year-old boy’s parents called police for help after their son threatened suicide. The parents thought police would arrive, talk him out of it, and there would be a happy ending with hugs and crying like in the movies…

Instead, a small army of sheriff’s deputies arrived along with an armored tank before a sniper shot and killed the boy. Armored tanks? Snipers? That’s not the Officer Friendly they told you about in kindergarten class.

Mental Illness in the Courtroom

In the courtroom, mentally ill defendants often fare no better. Most mentally ill defendants are treated as if they are normal people acting badly…

In most cases, courts do not want to be bothered with figuring out what is justice when a mentally ill person’s mental illness causes them to violate the law. Often, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys simply ignore the fact that a person is suffering from mental illness.

In some cases, mentally ill persons are punished – even tortured – by court personnel. A person might be gagged with duct tape by an impatient judge:

Judge Peter D. McDermott in Idaho ordered a mentally ill defendant gagged with duct tape to stop his outbursts during a hearing. Nicklas Frasure was in court for a probation violation hearing, but his public defender, Kent Reynolds, was requesting a mental competency evaluation (his clients response: “I’m totally fine,” Frasure said. “I have a sense of humor. I’m not bad looking. I can walk on my hands.”).

Frasure had spent time in a mental hospital, and there was testimony during the hearing as to his mental illness. Rather than order the defendant removed from the courtroom, which the judge had every right to do, he instead ordered that the defendant be gagged to prevent his outbursts during the proceeding.

In another case, a judge ordered a bailiff to repeatedly shock a mentally ill defendant who refused to answer questions the way the judge wanted him to answer. Refusing to enter a plea, the defendant instead kept telling the judge that he was mentally ill, that he requested the judge recuse himself, and that he had filed a lawsuit against the judge.

Later the appellate court found that the judge and bailiff lied, claiming the defendant took steps toward the judge’s bench in an aggressive manner.

Actually, Gallagher did not warn Morris to stop moving, and neither did Morris make any threatening movements, according to both the transcript of trial court proceedings, and an appellate court’s reading of that record.

The record shows that the shocks were in response to verbal outbursts by Morris, but it also shows Gallagher realized his mistake that same day, and attempted to justify his actions by citing a security risk, much as the bailiff did. The appeals court scrutinized Gallagher’s supposed security concerns and found them to be a “pretextual explanation.”

Gallagher had Morris shocked, the court concluded, “solely as a show of the court’s power.”

Judge George Gallagher, who appears to have committed the crimes of assault and battery, as well as possible perjury, obstruction of justice, or false information to law enforcement (I’m not sure if the Judge’s statements were under oath or made to law enforcement), is still a judge in Tarrant County, Texas and, as far as I know, has not been disciplined or charged with a crime.

Guilty but Mentally Ill

Not guilty by reason of insanity – the “insanity defense” – results in the defendant being incarcerated at a mental health facility where they can receive treatment. At trial, judges and lawyers are forbidden by SC law from telling jurors that it means the defendant gets help and that it does not mean the defendant is released.

If a defendant raises insanity as a defense, the Court must give the jurors the additional option of finding a defendant “guilty but mentally ill” – a verdict that results in the defendant going to normal prison, not a mental health facility, where they will receive the same mental health screening that every convicted inmate receives.

The law is designed to ensure that mentally ill people do not get help and that they receive punishment as if they were not mentally ill. Given the choice of NGRI (we don’t want this guy to be cut loose) or Guilty but Mentally Ill (sounds like he’ll get some help, that’s what we want), jurors always choose guilty but mentally ill – I am not aware of a single NGRI verdict by a jury in the history of SC.

Law enforcement, court personnel, and attorneys need regular, ongoing training as to how to recognize mental health issues, how to deal with mental health issues, and how to connect mentally ill persons with resources to help them.

The criminal justice system – police on the street, judges in courtrooms, and laws written by legislatures – is ridiculously unprepared to handle the mentally ill people who get caught in the system every day. The result is compounded suffering, not justice.

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Lexington, SC

Lacey Thompson is a SC criminal defense lawyer who accepts cases in the Myrtle Beach, Lexington, and Columbia, SC areas.

If you have been charged with a crime or think that you are under investigation, call the Thompson Defense Firm now at 843-444-6122 or send us an email to set up a free consultation.

mentally ill man dies after being abandoned by cop

One Response to “Mentally Ill Man Dies After Being Abandoned by Cop in Orangeburg, SC

  • Antomia Banks
    4 months ago

    My son had a case where he was charged with 3 felonies after a visit to Chesapeake General Hospital .I ask why he was there on a Temporary Detention Order that I taken out so that he could get help from his pyschotic episode.They ask you to call the police but sometimes they end up killing the mentally ill or charging them with crimes that they don’t understand at the time of the crime because they’re not in their right minds.The Chesapeake police officers who picked my son up were proffession 1 female had so much compassion concern and patients with my son. I had no idea until weeks later that from the visit at the CIT unit at Chesapeake that a nurse a security guard and police officer pressed charges against my son 3 violent felonies where he could do some serious time.We fought for 2 years and we we were granted Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.Thank God the laws have changed my son didn’t have to do the 6 months in a State hospital.He had to do therapy a few times.He has been on his meds.He has finished school with a welding certificate.My son has a career as a welder since this incident.I pray for my son and anyone who suffers from mental illness.anyone who has a family member who suffers from a mental illness. No one truly understand they just think that persons crazy.My son is a good kid very smart wouldn’t harm anyone.But when someone’s not in their right mind. I just ask be respectful have compassion. They want you to call the police who most aren’t trained lack compassion ,lack empathy they come and make it worse and sometimes kill your mevtslky ill family member or charge them with a crime when they aren’t in their right minds. As a people we have to do better.Mental illness is serious no one asks to be mentally ill.If I could take my sons place I would it hurts to see him when he can’t function. They need to train the right people so that situations like this won’t happen. He should’ve been taken to a hospital not left to die like he was nothing .God loves us all

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