HomeHealthMental HealthInquest underway into mentally ill man shot dead by police

Inquest underway into mentally ill man shot dead by police

A 29-year-old mentally ill man shot dead by police – including eight shots fired as he ran away – was a “smart, authentic and honest” man, whose condition was worsened by meth use, a coronal court found today research.

By Guyon Espiner for rnz.co.nz

Jerrim Toms was shot and killed by police after a 40-minute chase that ended at 4am on March 31, 2018 on a deserted highway near Puhoi, north of Auckland.

Toms got out of his car, which had been hit three times by police road spikes, and advanced on two officers holding a machete.

The officers fired four shots as Toms walked towards them and another eight as he ran away.

An inquest into his death opened today in Auckland District Court, before coroner Bell.

The inquest heard that Jerrim’s mother Joan Toms had called police in the hours before he died requesting a welfare check on her son, who suffered from bipolar disorder.

But when police arrived at the Toms family’s home in Onehunga, an Auckland suburb, Jerrim wasn’t there and neither was his car, so the officer removed the track from the police’s warning system.

That meant that when the officers — codenamed Constable A and Constable B to protect their identities — confronted Toms on State Highway 1, they knew nothing about his mother’s emergency call or his mental health history.

A 2019 report from the Independent Police Conduct Authority said police accepted it was “inappropriate” for the officer doing Toms’ welfare check to remove the job from the alert system after discovering he was not home.

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‘The sad answer is no’ – Medical professional on more care

A memorial to Jerrim Toms on the spot where he was fatally shot by police.

The inquest heard today from a medical professional – his name and occupation are withheld – who assessed Toms about two weeks before he was shot and believed drug use had precipitated his relapse.

He was a “smart, authentic and honest” man whose mental health had been compromised by drug use, the medical professional said.

He told the court that in the four years since the incident he had wondered “about 20 times” if he could have given Toms extra care. “From my perspective, the sad answer is no.”

But the mental health care Toms received is under scrutiny at the inquest.

Documents available to the coroner show that the Auckland DHB mental health department reviewed the standard of care Toms received in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

“Clinicians told the review team that the increasing pressure on beds has led to patients being discharged when they are settled enough for intensive follow-up in the community rather than when they are fully settled,” the review said.

For Toms, the lack of bed space meant he was released before “his mood and psychotic symptoms completely subsided”.

Toms was just weeks away from his first fatherhood. “He talked about his dreams and seeing his daughter,” said the medical professional, who saw Toms two weeks before he was shot. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

Toms’ mental health records say that marijuana use “destabilized his mental state, usually by increasing his paranoia” and that “he also occasionally used methamphetamine.”

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Toxicology tests found small traces of meth, cannabis and alcohol in Toms’ blood after he was shot.

Police asked a forensic pathologist what effect the meth had, but he said it was “not possible to correlate a post-mortem blood level of methamphetamine with any specific behavior.”

Officers caught up with Toms after he stole gas from a gas station and drove erratically, including stopping to threaten police with a machete and also smashing his own taillights.

In the final confrontation, Toms walked over to the two officers with a machete and came within ten feet of the pair before they opened fire, punching him twice in the chest before turning and running.

Autopsy results showed that the two chest wounds were both gunshot fatalities in their own right. A back wound – one of eight bullets fired as he ran away pierced his right lower back – was serious, but classified as “potentially non-fatal”.

The officers continued firing even after Toms dropped his machete on the road and the final shot was fired when Toms was unarmed and 45 feet away from the police.

Police will testify at the inquest on Monday.



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