According to a 2015 report by The Treatment Advocacy Center, an estimated 7.9 million adults in the United States live with severe mental illness that disorders their thinking. 1 in 4 of all fatal police encounters are with adults that have a severe untreated mental illness.
On July 7th 2018, Harold Kraai was 52-years-old when he was shot by an officer eight times in the front yard of his mother’s residence in Jacksonville, Florida.
Kraai was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and was under the care of his mother Jaqueline Weaver. She said that Harold is remembered as a gentle giant and that he loved Fried chicken and spending time with children.
“He was a kind, gentle person. If you met him, you liked him. Everybody did. All the stores around here, all the neighbors around here, all his family, they loved him, but he was a gentle giant” Weaver said.
According to Weaver, Kraai had outbursts but was never known to hurt anybody. He had been Baker Acted routinely by officers when he went off his medication or his medication stopped working.
Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office Chief of Investigations Chris Butler said in a press conference that Kraai charged Officer Richard Futch with a kitchen knife and that he did not obey any commands to put the knife down. Officer Futch fired eight times. A bullet hole remains in Weaver’s front door.
According to his criminal record, Kraai had not had a violent arrest since 1995.
“But never did Harold ever go out to the community or hurt somebody or threatened somebody on stores around here? Oh, you know, they known him. They loved him. I saw 'em on some articles. Of course, JSO is claiming that he had a violent criminal history that again, I don't know what they're talking about” Weaver said.
Officer Richard Futch had been with the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office for 23 years and has had 18 internal investigations during his career before he had shot Kraai.
Weaver said that their family wants justice and has yet to get answers from JSO for what exactly took place in her front yard in 2018.
“What would have been happening to you or I had we went out there and shot somebody? Justice is him going to jail. That would be justice. But he's not going to get justice”, Weaver said.
Tara Wilde is President of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Jacksonville and had worked with the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office in Corrections for over 20 years.
“A person with a mental illness is less likely to be engaged in criminal behavior than someone who is not mentally ill. a person with mental illness is much more likely to be a victim of criminal behavior than someone that's not mentally ill. However, it's not realistic to say that there's not a juxtaposition there as well and there are people with mental health issues that are going to, unfortunately, engage in criminal behaviors and sometimes that server's role of substance abuse. Nothing happens in a vacuum including mental illness,” she said.
Weaver said that the lack of resources for Kraai and people like him made it difficult for their family to find a place for him after being Baker Acted numerous times prior to his death in 2018.
“They'll put them in the hospital, and they'll keep them there till the insurance doesn't pay any more than that. Usually around two weeks and then they're back on the streets and they don't, you know, they tell
you can put them in a halfway house,” she said.
The Baker Act, named after Maxine Baker who sponsored it in 1972, is a Florida law that allows law enforcement to involuntarily detain someone if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Weaver continues to remember her son and hopes to find justice one day.
“He will always be alive inside me in my heart for the rest of my life. But Harold was murdered right in front of me on my front lawn,” she said.
The Unfit to Stand team continues to send our deepest condolences to the Weaver family and remain grateful for Jacqueline sharing her son's memory.
In memory of Harold Kraai