How One MNPD Officer Turned a Mental Health Crisis Into Multiple Felonies

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Metro Police responded to a domestic call late Thursday night, and would eventually arrest 28-year-old Shandale Murray, who was having a mental health emergency. The officer that took her into custody would not only charge her with domestic assault, but would note in her report that Shandale Murray had some sort of “mental disability” because she was “talking to herself”, yet proceed to charge her with 3 counts of bribery to a public servant when during that crisis she thought she could pay money to secure her release from custody. This raised her $5,000 bond to ten times the amount, resulting in a $50,000 bond – which is still keeping the defendant, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis, bi-polar, and talking to herself and about the Illuminati during the incident, locked up in jail for ‘bribing’ a police officer at least 3 times. It’s unclear why the officer chose to believe those statements, but not the ones about the Illuminati, but she did, even thought she was fully away there was no real meaning, intent, or means, behind those words.

In June of this year, the Davidson County Grand Jury issued sharp remarks regarding this issue in a report, stating that too many Tennesseans with mental illnesses are arrested and jailed, instead of getting treatment. In part, the report reads:

“Instead of solving the problem of why people keep getting in trouble, we seem to just throw them in to the criminal justice system. We treat too many affected individuals as criminals instead of getting them the treatment they need.”

We’re careful to not trivialize the domestic violence charge that also occurred during the incident, though it occurred during an obvious mental break, Shandale Murray has a previous conviction for a similar charge, and is currently on a 3-year term of supervised probation, a condition of which is that she receives treatment for her mental health, and take her medication as prescribed. However, acknowledging that a person is talking to themselves, and in the middle of a mental health crisis, and then charging them for felony bribery of an official when they ask to pay you to let them to go while in the middle of that mental break, seems to be a bit of an over-reach by the MNPD, and continues to punish someone for having a mental health issue – something the Grand Jury scolded the department for earlier this year.

Shandale Murray (MNPD)

Officer Melissa Flores, who joined the department in late 2016, was the officer that responded to this call, which was placed by Shandale Murray’s mother, who requested that the officer assist with a domestic dispute between her and Shandale. Her mother stated that while on the way home Shandale began to have a “bi-polar episode” in her vehicle. When her mother asked her to calm down, she refused and continued to “talk about the Illuminati”, and “raise the volume to her rap music”. Also in the vehicle was a 9-year-old son/grandson of the parties.

While Officer Flores was speaking to Shandale’s mother, the 9-year-old was trying to talk to the officer, but his grandmother kept trying to quiet him. When Officer Flores asked the child what he wanted to tell her, he explained that his mother, Shandale, grabbed him by his shirt and bit him on his cheek during her mental health crisis. His grandmother reluctantly confirmed the information, and Shandale Murray was taken into custody, for domestic assault.

Shandale was placed in the back of the patrol car, and Officer Flores observed her talking to herself. In her report, Flores notes

“the defendant seems to have some mental disability as she continued to talk to herself while she was in the back of the car”

When Flores explained that she was being transported to booking, Shandale asked to speak to a supervisor, and upon arrival she offered money to officers several times to secure her release. These events were recorded, per the officer’s narrative. It is unclear why the officer felt these statements were lucid or meaningful, when she also documented that she was in the middle of a mental health crisis, and talking to herself.

Shandale’s original charge was a misdemeanor, with a $5,000 bond, however Flores then charged Shandale with 3 felony counts of bribery of a public official, upping her bond to a total of $50,000. Night Court Commissioner Daniel Masten signed the arrest warrant, finding probable cause for the felony charges, and set the bonds for each bribery count at $15,000 each. There’s nothing to indicate that Shandale knew what she was saying, any less than she thought the Illuminati were real when she made those statements – in fact the arresting officer notes that she was talking to herself and described her as a person with a “mental disability”.

As of today, Shandale remains held on a $50,000 bond, held at the CoreCivic operated Metro Detention Facility, in Unit D-D1, where she will remain until her bond review hearing on Monday, September 24th. The new sheriff’s facility, when completed, will have 64 beds for individuals in the middle of a mental health crisis. Beds split evenly, where men and women can be housed in a program that lasts up to 30 days – but that facility won’t open until the fall of 2019. For now, those needing help only see the inside of a jail cell, just like Shandale Murrary.

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