Philip Quinn knew he needed help. After recently telling St. Paul hospital staff that he planned to kill himself, Quinn tried to get into a long-term treatment program to address his schizophrenia and other mental health difficulties.
But Thursday night in St. Paul’s West End, Quinn’s long struggle with mental illness ended when police, responding to a call of a suicidal man, shot and killed the 30-year-old, who was armed with a screwdriver and had failed to obey police commands.
The officer-involved shooting death was the 13th in St. Paul since 2009 — the most by any department in the state. It also was one of several over the past two years involving a victim who was mentally ill, renewing concerns Friday about police response and protocols for handling such cases.
“The cops knew that there was a suicide/mental health call and that they were supposed to help,” said Jestin Quinn, Philip’s older brother. “There’s other ways to handle it instead of shooting to kill.”
On Friday, police identified the officers involved as Joe LaBathe, an eight-year veteran, and Rich McGuire, who has been with the department for seven years. McGuire shot Quinn. Both officers are on standard administrative leave.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Thomas Smith declined to discuss details of the case, pending further investigation. Quinn’s loved ones, however, said police did not do enough.
“He hadn’t hurt anybody but himself,” said Darleen Tareeq, Quinn’s fiancée. “This is so [expletive]… ridiculous. It’s like a nightmare.”
The shooting occurred after police were called about 6 p.m. Thursday to a house in the 600 block of Canton Street, where Philip Quinn lived with Tareeq. Officers had been to the home earlier that day, said police spokesman Steve Linders, who did not say why police were called. Linders also declined to say whether Quinn had a weapon when he was shot later that night.
After being shot, Quinn was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he died. No officers were hurt.
Quinn had been released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul last week after being treated for a mental health concern, Tareeq said. While there, he told medical staff that he had a plan to hurt himself, she said. After returning home, he started telling Tareeq that “things weren’t making sense” to him, she said.
When Tareeq arrived home from work early Thursday morning, she said she realized Quinn had stabbed himself several times with a sharp object. She called his cousin to try to help her get Quinn to eat and take his medication. When he locked himself in the garage, Tareeq said, she called 911 for a medic.
When police showed up, Quinn fled, and they were unable to find him. He returned home about 5 p.m. and called his mother, who called 911 as she headed to his house.
At one point after Tareeq went in the house and came out again, she saw Quinn standing in the front of the drive with a screwdriver in his hand and several officers near him.
Tareeq said police ordered Quinn to drop the screwdriver. She then heard several pops and realized that he had been shot. Quinn’s mother also saw the shooting.
“I’m just so hurt and so angry,” said Tareeq, adding that police should have tried to use a Taser to subdue Quinn.
“He was hurting himself,” Jestin Quinn said. “He wasn’t hurting anybody else. [They] did not have to use lethal ammunition.”
Philip Quinn’s troubles are well-documented.
He floated in and out of the criminal justice system for years — his record includes convictions for auto theft, drugs and possession of a firearm by an ineligible felon, among other offenses. But a 2013 jailhouse letter indicated that he sought help for his demons and hoped to regain a foothold in the civilian world.
“… I’m trying to get my life back on track before I am released,” he wrote, asking a hearing officer to vacate fines in 10 citations for low-level offenses.
Quinn was released from prison in March, with supervision for a 2012 gun conviction.
In that case, Quinn had been arrested during a police investigation into the sale of guns and methamphetamine. He was initially found mentally incompetent to stand trial, but the decision was later reversed. While in prison, his brother said, Quinn once to tried to cut himself.
Since his release, Quinn had been working landscape and construction jobs to help support his fiancée and their 3-month-old daughter, his brother said.
Smith said in an interview earlier this year that the spike in fatal shootings by his department over the past six years is attributed to several factors, including more interactions with people who are mentally ill.
Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, expressed sympathy for Quinn’s family Friday but said it was too soon to comment on how police handled this case.
“It’s a tough situation to be in” for police, she said, “and they’re making split-second decisions.”
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