Friday, February 6, 1998
Irrational suspects test cops
Guns add tension to threats

BY TANYA BRICKING
The Cincinnati Enquirer

williams
Daniel T. Williams
On almost a daily basis, police are called to situations in which people suffering from mental illness are armed and threatening. Wednesday night, it was Walter Owens, with a .357 Magnum revolver holstered on his shoulder under his coat.

Police said the 35-year-old Northside man was threatening to kill officers in Corryville, but he was arrested before any violence erupted. He was in jail Thursday on charges of carrying concealed weapons and aggravated menacing.

What kept his situation from becoming as violent as that of Daniel T. Williams - who was killed after shooting Officer Kathleen ''Katy'' Conway on Monday night - is a thin line, police say.

Mr. Williams' family called police earlier that day after saying he was acting irrationally and threatening to kill his mother. His daughter, Jamila Turnbow, said she thought he suffered from mental illness, ''but I never saw him take any medication or anything.''

The Veterans Administration Medical Center said Mr. Williams, 41, an Army veteran, was last treated in April 1997 but declined to give specifics of his treatment.

He had more than a dozen encounters with police in the last decade - with charges ranging from drug abuse to felonious assault - before he shot Officer Conway four times and she returned fire and killed him.

No matter whether people with mental illness have adequate help from agencies and families, guns change the equation, said Memphis Police Lt. Sam Cochran. He coordinates a nationally recognized program in which special police teams respond to calls involving mental illness.

''When weapons become the focal point, it then becomes a safety issue for law enforcement officers,'' he said.

In Cincinnati, ever since police shot mental patient Lorenzo Collins to death a year ago after he refused to drop a brick, encounters with violent mental patients have been an area of increased discussion and training for city officers.

In reaction to the Collins shooting, people suffering from mental illness joined police recruit training in December to help police understand their own feelings when dealing with authorities. Mike Fontana, education manager for the Recovery Initiative, a consumer-run agency that provides free services to people suffering from mental illness, was there.

He said mutual fear between police and mentally ill people is the greatest challenge.

Today's report

Officer tells of shouts, shots
Website, donations
Officer must have heart of lion Cliff Radel column

Thursday's report

Cops: Safety top priority

Wednesday's report

Colleagues praise officer's quick action
Sequence of events
A determined, caring officer
Gunman 'never talked bad about police'
Police attacks less frequent, more deadly

Tuesday's report

Officer shot; suspect dead
Audio and transcipt of police radio calls

Thursday's report

Cops: Safety top priority

Wednesday's report

Colleagues praise officer's quick action
Sequence of events
A determined, caring officer
Gunman 'never talked bad about police'
Police attacks less frequent, more deadly

Tuesday's report

Officer shot; suspect dead
Audio and transcipt of police radio calls