‘I wish we had never called the police’: Alberta man fatally shot during mental health crisis

The parents of a red deer man shot and killed by police this week say the RCMP saw no reason to use deadly force against their son.

“I wish we never called the police,” a tearful Jane Deon told promoteA day later, her son Derek Deon, 33, was shot three times by an officer in his downstairs bedroom.

Jane and her husband, Vernon Deon, are still grappling with what happened after three police officers armed with rifle-like weapons “ramped” into their house to confront their adult son.

Vernon said Thursday afternoon that he called 911 after Derek, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, made verbal threats.

This was Vernon’s attempt to provide more evidence that his son could be a threat to himself and others – and he was told that Derek needed to be admitted under the Mental Health Act.

Vernon visited the police detachment earlier in the day to collect the required forms, but left when the officer he needed to speak to was not available.

When three officers entered the house and descended the stairs to Derek’s bedroom, they found him lying on his bed, fidgeting with a steak knife in his hand, Vernon said.

He believes there was only about a minute of conversation before police Tasered Derek when he didn’t put down his steak knife.

He saw his son staggering off the bed and kneeling on one knee. Before Derek was fully on his feet, an officer shot him three times and Vernon yelled, “Don’t shoot!” he recalled.

The father said he couldn’t remember if Derek was still holding a steak knife at the time.

“This is not a hostage situation,” Vernon said, hoping officers would spend more time talking to his son.

He and Jane said Derek did not make them feel physically threatened and that Derek had never raised a knife on either of them until the police arrived.

In a statement after the incident, Red Deer RCMP said officers were responding to a complaint of a man threatening to injure others with a knife in his home — something Vernon strongly disagreed with.

The father also questioned why the police had not publicly stated that it was a mental health-related issue, especially as local police and crisis teams had dealt with Derek several times before.

Jane and Vernon didn’t expect this kind of reaction from the police. They had dealt with PACT before, but later discovered that a professional team, including social workers and mental health professionals, was busy with another call.

Corp. Troy Savinkoff, communications officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police K-Division, said police have only released a summary of what happened and provided no further details. By law, all shootings involving police are investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, although this can take months to years to complete as investigators gather evidence and statements from the officers involved.

Police have not yet announced whether any action is being taken against the officer who fired the shots. However, the Director of Law Enforcement considered this use of deadly force to be “within the bounds” or within the scope of the officer’s job.

Jane said their son’s mental health problems started around the age of 14. He was a top student until he dropped out in 10th grade due to bullying.

As of Thursday, the parents said their son had stopped taking his medication and felt he was struggling as his schizophrenia spectrum disorder worsened.

“I could hear him talk all night,” said Vernon, explaining that his son had a “fan club” voice in his head. Therefore, Derek will be very excited.

Vernon said he’s been waving his hand in his parents’ faces lately, sometimes making threatening remarks.

Derek was famous for his shop on the corner of Anders Street, where he would buy lottery tickets. He is often seen walking around red deer in a long military coat.

“He’s a really good artist and photographer, and he loves music,” said an emotional Vernon.

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