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Man fatally shot by Tulsa officer battled mental illness, mother says

Tulsa World - 12/28/2017

A man fatally shot by police after reportedly pointing a gun at an officer while naked on Christmas had a history of mental illness and may have been high on mushrooms, according to his mother.

A Tulsa police officer shot and killed 31-year-old Jacob Craig about 4:45 p.m. Monday in the 1100 block of South Wheeling Avenue.

The officer, whose name has not been released, was responding to a report of a disturbance with a weapon when authorities say Craig approached him while carrying a handgun and wearing no clothes. Police say the officer gave several commands for the man to put the gun down, but opened fire when Craig pointed the gun at him.

Craig was taken to an area hospital and died from his injuries.

The initial police call reportedly came from a neighbor who said Craig threatened him with the gun. Officers also were told of multiple previous disturbances.

Although it is too early to determine whether Craig was intoxicated at the time of the shooting, homicide Sgt. Dave Walker said officers found mushrooms and some AR-15-like guns inside the home he shares with his family on Wheeling Avenue. Walker said he does not believe the incident was captured by the officer's dash-cam.

Craig's mother, Kim Flanagan, told the Tulsa World her son was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after witnessing the death of his pregnant fiancee about 10 years ago.

The woman reportedly died after their vehicle was struck by a drunken driver. She said Craig tried to revive her but couldn't.

Flanagan said her son's issues with mental illness surfaced after the death of his father when he was 8.

"That was trauma one," she said. "With his fiancee, that just pushed him over the edge. He couldn't recover from that."

Continued struggles

Craig, who had an 8-year-old son, began experiencing significant paranoia and depression to the point where he rarely left his room. Before, according to his mom, he was outgoing and funny. The tragedy changed his entire personality.

Medication he took for the paranoia and depression helped relieve the symptoms. Flanagan said he stopped taking it about 6 months ago because he could no longer afford insurance and the price became too high.

Since then, he had struggled to overcome his emotions and made multiple attempts to kill himself, she said. He also experienced bouts of anger but nothing that was extreme, she added.

"It just got worse and deteriorated," she said. "I could tell he was getting more and more depressed. It was just a mess."

He also was known to use illegal drugs in the past, namely marijuana. Craig earlier this year received a deferred sentence following a plea deal on charges of reckless handling of a firearm, possession of drug paraphernalia and public intoxication, according to court records.

Following the shooting, Flanagan learned from her daughters that Craig "got a hold of something" and informed officers. That something turned out to be mushrooms.

"It had to have been laced with something," she said. "I told the officers they better find out who sold that to him."

Craig also frequently made money from trading guns, but she said she did not know about the rifles he kept in his room.

Flanagan, a licensed counselor and a therapist for a local drug-abuse program, said she is irate at the state of Oklahoma for the steep budget cuts affecting mental health. She believes her son would still be alive if he had better access to treatment.

"Our Legislature is a failure," she said. "They want to cut mental health and substance abuse. They want to increase incarceration. That does nothing for these people.

"The way I watch police officers deal with mental health in this city is criminal. It's criminal. They lunge at them. They scream at them. That is like going at a rabid dog."

Neighbors speak out

Leslee Byrd, who moved next door to Craig's home with her two roommates about two weeks ago, said she was taking a nap when she heard a man screaming "like a crazy person." She then heard another voice - a police officer, who had arrived at the scene after another neighbor had called - repeatedly yelling for the man to put the gun down at least four times, followed by the distinct sound of at least six gunshots.

The shots sounded so close to her house that her first impulse was to drop to the floor.

"I was just thinking, 'Am I going to die?' " Byrd said. "I was afraid there might be more shooters. I didn't know what to do."

When she felt safe, she glanced outside and saw a man lying naked in the street. She instantly recognized Craig, who she said had caused problems for her and her roommates since they moved into the neighborhood.

Although she had never spoken with Craig, she said she became frustrated with the constant noise coming from his house. She recalled frequent shouting matches and horns honking through all hours of the night.

Her roommate, Shane Ryals, said he had a handful of arguments with Craig because his family's car kept blocking the driveway. Two days ago, Ryals said, he parked in front of Craig's home after his own driveway was blocked.

"The guy who got shot came over and asked me to move my car," he said. "He got real aggressive with me. I asked him if he could just not park his car there anymore. I wasn't rude about it or anything. He got upset and turned around in an aggressive manner and said, 'You don't talk to me that way. You don't know who you're talking to.' "

Not everyone in the area shared the same feelings toward Craig.

Marilyn Smith, a caregiver whose client lives across the street, said she first met Craig while playing with a neighbor's dog. Craig approached her and struck up a conversation.

"He seemed to be very nice. Very polite. Very talkative," Smith said. "I've talked with him a few times since then because we have a common interest in dogs."

Smith has struggled to process Craig's death and doesn't understand the behavior police said he exhibited. She approached his mother Tuesday to offer condolences.

"It didn't seem like his character, not from the person that I've met," she said. "It just didn't seem like something he would do."

 
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