My Son's Death, by Valerie Barber Dec. 2010

 In the December 17, 2010 Santa Rosa Press Democrat there was a very predictable story titled: JUDGE: SANTA ROSA POLICE JUSTIFIED IN 2008 KILLING. Wish we had a nickel everytime some version of that headline has been printed in our local press. Below is a statement (also sent as a letter to the Editor) from Jesse’s mom Valerie Barber. I’ve worked with Val for the past two years since her son’s death and she has been very generous with her time and energy reaching out to other families in similar situations. She went through the laborious process of finding an attorney and putting in the hundreds of hours it takes to build a case—a process that the local Leday and Sullivan families are now going through. Even getting the names of the officers who commit these killings is difficult and the deck is stacked big time against any sort of justice... for families left suddenly and unnecessarily without a loved one. In Sonoma County most of those killed in the past twenty years have been people freaking out in the middle of a mental breakdown---not in the commission of a crime. Please pass this on to your friends so more people can understand this isn’t some rare instance—in fact it has become quite common. --Mary Moore


This is in response to the article "justifying" the death of my son Jesse Hamilton, who was killed January 2nd 2008 by the Santa Rosa Police. Jesse, a severely mentally ill, had been officially "conserved" by the County of Sonoma for over six years. Under the direction of the Sonoma County Mental Health Department he was placed into the "care" of Telecare Corporation.This corporation is contracted to provide care for those mentally ill people that the county wishes to place out in the community. Under the supervision of their Psychiatrist, Telecare employees gave my severely mentally ill son sole responsibility for his medication box which consisted of a full weeks supply of nine different medications. During the five days before his death they did not check to see if he was taking them nor did they notice what must have been increasingly aberrant behavior as the days went by. A fellow mental patient living in the house told a Telecare employee the day before the incident that Jesse needed to be 5150ed, however this mans warning was ignored by the employee that he told.


On the morning of the day Jesse died it became apparent to staff that he was having trouble and had not taken his medications for five days. The employee gave him one morning dose of his medications, and Jesse cooperated with this. She did not call Psych Emergency Services which would have hospitalized him and then stabilized him on a full regimen of medications. Unfortunately the one dose this nurse gave him was an antidepressant with stimulating properties. A severely paranoid and psychotic individual, (now artifically stimulated), left unsupervised and unmedicated to wander around a house which was equipped with a knife drawer filled with sharp knives. Jesse was told to "self soothe". He repeated that he just wanted to sleep. At some point he left his room and got the knife . An alarmed fellow patient then ran to the Telecare office which was only two blocks away and where the doctor testified he left right around the time 911 was called. The fiasco continued to unfold. Although they were in contact with other patients who were in the house officers made no attempt to evacuate them prior to confronting Jesse. Although he had the knife he was sequestered in his room with the door locked. Less than 5 minutes after the first officer arrived my son was called out of his room.


Tased, shot four times only a half second later, and then contact tased continuously for 25 further seconds while they ordered him to put his hands behind his back, (an impossible feat even for someone who hadn't just been mortally wounded). The judge had an opportunity to set precedent in our case but chose to go with the trend of the times and absolve the police of all wrongdoing. As the defendants in our civil case would like to see it this was just a series of unfortunate events. I was advised that our suit against Telecare corporation would go nowhere because they could just say that the police were the ones who shot him. I had hoped that through the court system it could be determined who was responsible for my sons death and now I have discovered that no one is. Every one of our defendants should live with this incident for the rest of their lives and should know that there may be a higher judgment in store when they arrive at the place they sent my innocent child. thank you.

Valerie Barber