FARGO — A Fargo woman who says her 27-year-old son's eye was shot out with a less-lethal weapon in a struggle with officers in early October said she hopes her city's police department will work to change its approach to mental health crises after the incident.
On Oct. 2, a Fargo group home called 911 to report that Tyler Patel, Stephanie Patel's son, was suicidal and bleeding after cutting his arm.
Officers were sent to the area of Gateway Drive South, but when they arrived, they say the situation escalated to the point where they needed to use a pepper ball gun, a less-than-lethal weapon used to subdue people resisting officers.
Stephanie Patel said her son was hit in his right eye, blinding him, and she questions if the use of force was necessary.
"(The group home) told me (he made) no threats to us ... it was simply a medical call for assistance," Patel said, adding she was later told that her son could be seen immobile on the ground with police standing with their guns pointed at him.
Tyler Patel was arrested for terrorizing and preventing arrest and, as of Monday, Oct. 28, was being held in Cass County Jail.
After the incident, Stephanie Patel took to social media to express her concern about law enforcement's use of pepper ball guns, which got the attention of the community and police department.
The Fargo Police Department held a press conference Monday to explain how and when they use less-lethal force, but would not comment on specific details of the Patel incident because it is still under investigation.
"We never go into any situation wanting to use force or any type of weapon," Lt. Chris Helmick with the police department's investigations division said. "But sometimes our actions are dictated by the people we're dealing with."
Police said there are about 15 officers in the Fargo Police Department trained in critical intervention who are called to situations like Tyler Patel's on Oct. 2.
Stephanie Patel said she doesn't want a public backlash against police, but she wants the community to be aware of mental health issues.
"I support the police 100%," she said. "But I support them in being honest, working with integrity, learning from their mistakes and changing."