JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Saturday was the first time Charity Baker spoke out about her daughter, Leah, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting in April.
“I had her in what I thought was a safe house. She did suffer from mental illness. ... I never thought that the police would kill my daughter,” Charity Baker told a crowd of people demanding a city budget aimed to help in situations like hers.
“Help us. We are the caregivers. These are our loved ones.”
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Leah Baker is accused of slicing an officer’s arm with a knife and then charging at him after refusing to drop the knife. The Sheriff’s Office said the officer fired multiple rounds to stop her. She later died at a hospital.
Protests and calls to defund police have swarmed the country, and some cities have taken steps to change police operations. Baker said she hopes Jacksonville’s new budget can refund the community.
“I know there was talk about having licensed clinicians go out with officers on calls to stop things like this from happening to de-escalate situations -- people that are educated and know how to deal with people with mental health problems,” Charity Baker said.
News4Jax spoke with Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci about the proposed budget. He said he agrees with some of it but wants to see money put into programs to help people.
“We can’t put it all on the sheriff to stop this. What we have to do is intervene and prevent these crimes from happening by catching children and giving them opportunities on the front end,” Carlucci explained. “So that’s where I think the budget is a little short.”
Charity Baker agrees and said case managers and more resources are needed to help in these situations.
“I hear that they want to help the children, but most of these illnesses happen in the late teens, early 20s. Where is their help? Where is their help to get education, to get jobs?” Charity Baker said.
Carlucci said there are agencies that can provide mental health help that need more funding, and the city should be putting money toward programs to make sure at-risk youth and adults don’t fall into the pipeline.
“Intervention, prevention and public services grants -- they handle everything from Meals on Wheels to helping people that have mental health disorders to providing medicine. That’s where we should be investing but not at the expense of the Sheriff’s Office,” Carlucci said.