Have you heard about the story of Jaron Thomas? Have you seen hashtags, news stories and rallies to find answers as to what happened to him? Some may have but it took for his friend and fellow artist, Louise Mackey reaching out to FlyPaper for me to hear about this story. While his family and friends are left putting together the pieces of what happened and why, they also must reach out to platforms to tell his story and create awareness about what is going on, right here at home.
Jaron battled with Schizophrenia and on January 14, 2017 he called 911 and informed them that he needed an EMT and to be admitted to Netcare. He was having a schizophrenic episode, hearing voices and in combination of struggling with hallucinations and drug usage he knew that he needed help. Jaron saw lights in his apartment complex and he figured it was the EMT. It was in fact the police. Jaron tried to explain his disability and that he had called for help and was waiting for the EMT but the police instead cuffed him. All that is known now is that Jaron ended up at Riverside with unexplained injuries and brain damage. A week later he passed away.
Jaron was 36, a father and a friend. He and Louise were both apart of Bizzy Bones label 7th Sign Regime. After one call to 911 to seek help with a mental disability he suffered from his family and friends are left to put together the pieces. How does a man seeking help end up in the hospital with brain damage? Why did the 911 dispatcher send the police instead of the EMT like he had requested? What happened to Jaron Thomas?
On February 18 2017, the family and friends of Jaron hosted a peaceful rally to promote awareness and in search of answers. When speaking of the rally Louise says, “The silence is heartbreaking.”
Just messaging with Louise made me feel a connection to Jaron. He sent me a video of Jaron and his injuries and it was unbearable for me. In fact, I couldn’t finish it. How does someone seeking help with a mental issue end up bruised, beaten and with brain damage?
Louise is passionate to find answers and the support and love he has for his friend is widely apparent. He talked to me about how he doesn’t want his friend’s story to be-just another story. Louise had a message that he wanted to send about how he felt about everything going on. It’s listed below in full.
I feel like he could be the one to change the way these situations are handled.
He wasn’t being arrested.
He wasn’t resisting.
He was not a suspect in anything and he wasn’t a threat.
He had called to this exact address four other times for the same problem. This time the police came and this happened. This man was the calmest person I have ever met in my life, even with all the hallucination and mental issues he battled with.
He was the quiet friend in the corner you had to explain to your other friends. In my heart, I KNOW there is no way for them to spin this to be his fault.
And I think they know that, that’s where their silence is coming from. We really just want to demand the answers and respect that EVERY HUMAN BEING deserves.
This man called the people we rely on to protect us, for help and they killed him. So who do we call when we need help now?
1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million) people suffer from some type of mental illness and its time we start having these conversations. Police and 911 dispatchers need to be trained properly to deal with mental illness. We cannot just talk about mental health issues after a tragedy has happened. We have to talk about these issues and take them seriously.