A provincial court judge has commended two Victoria police officers for arresting a mentally ill, knife-wielding man without harming him.
“You’re lucky you’re not dead,” Judge Ernie Quantz told Jerald Diebold at his sentencing hearing Monday. “I commend the officers. In similar instances, people have been killed.”
Quantz said Diebold’s case emphasizes the need for a forensic Assertive Community Treatment team in Victoria. ACT teams help people with serious mental illnesses who are often involved in the justice system. Forensic ACT teams focus more intensely on individuals with a high risk of violence, more frequently involved in the justice system. “Without this sort of team, persons like Mr. Diebold are either going to get themselves killed or we’ll wait until they seriously injure or kill someone else, then lock them up for life,” Quantz said.
On Nov. 1, 20-year-old Rhett Mutch was shot during a confrontation with police at his mother’s Dallas Road home. According to police, she called 911 after her son threatened to hurt himself with a knife.
On Saturday evening, a 51-year-old man was shot to death by police in East Vancouver. Both shootings are being investigated by the Independent Investigations Office.
At 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, Diebold was seen at the back of the Sandman Hotel on Douglas Street with large hunting knives in both hands, swinging his arms around, prosecutor Barbara Penty told the court. Diebold saw a man watching him and extended his arms towards him, yelling aggressively.
The 270-pound, six-foot- four former bouncer was frightened and ran into the hotel to ask the front-desk staff to call police, Penty said. When two officers arrived, Diebold threw one of the knives on the roof and started to walk towards them still holding a large knife in one hand.
They ordered him to drop the knife and stay put, but Diebold refused and kept walking toward them, Penty said. One officer drew her firearm. The other pointed his Taser at Diebold. The officers continued to give loud, clear commands to drop the knife. But Diebold took three more steps toward them, Penty said. “The officers yelled that it was going to be his last warning to finally drop the knife. He did finally drop it and was ordered to get to the ground.”
Diebold, 29, was making bizarre statements, telling police he could hear things in his head, Penty said.
In the past year, Diebold had applied three times to be taken on by an ACT team but was refused because he is violent and does not use many health-care resources. He has a drug problem, does not take his medication and insists he doesn’t have a problem, Penty said.
Kelly Reid, director of operations for mental health and substance use at Island Health, said Victoria has more ACT teams than any other city in B.C.
“We try to decide who needs ACT services the most,” said Reid. “It’s an imperfect science. Someone may look as though they are not as high a need and something snaps and you end up with an incident like this and we wish we could go back and reassess ... In retrospect, this fellow had a clear breaking point.”
Reid said he would work with the team to see if it is emphasizing the high-risk-behaviour component as much as it should.
Diebold pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. Quantz gave him credit for 48 days served in pre-trial custody and placed him on probation for a year.
He also ordered him to attend drug and alcohol counselling and psychiatric treatment if directed by his probation officer.