When Florida man, Justin Way, told his live-in girlfriend, Kaitlyn Christine Lyons, he planned to kill himself, she called the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office in an attempt to get her boyfriend to a local St. Augustine, Florida hospital for help.
She explained during the 12-minute call, “My boyfriend… has threatened to kill himself twice now. What do I do and who do I call?” her voice cracking with emotion at the end. She added, “He recently lost his job, in addition to he’s also been drinking.”
According to The Daily Beast, Lyons caught Justin drinking a bottle of vodka, which she took away from him to pour out. She said he was drunk, lying in their bed with a large serrated knife, saying he would hurt himself with it, but also telling the police that she did not feel threatened.
Minutes later, two St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies, 26-year-old Jonas Carballosa and 32-year-old Kyle Braig, arrived at the home, armed with assault rifles, and told Kaitlyn to wait outside.
“I thought they were going into war,” she remembered thinking when she first saw the assault rifles the cops brought with them. The police told his girlfriend to wait outside, entered his bedroom, and shot him in the chest and abdomen, allegedly before he sat up.
Lyons explained to the Beast that her brother had been “Baker Acted” three times for threatening to hurt himself, so she assumed that is what would happen with Way. Florida’s Baker Act allows for the involuntary institutionalization of people who may present a threat to themselves or others. Police officers in Florida can be the ones to carry it out, The Free Thought Project explains.
Justin Way’s father, George Way said his son was a recovering alcoholic and had been alcohol-free for five weeks. “He just lost his job, and he had a setback,” he said.
He said the initial report he received from Detective Mike Smith showed that his officers said they were attacked by Justin with a knife. Smith would not tell the family where and how many times Justin was shot, and he told Justin’s father that Justin had threatened Kaitlyn, which she denies.
Denise Way, Justin’s mom, said the detective explained to her that “they told Justin to drop the knife and he didn’t—so they shot him because “‘That’s what we do.'”
Reddit user, ‘ThrowFARaway98‘, commented that he was in the “exact same situation fifteen years ago.”
“I was sitting on my porch this time with a knife when the police came up and asked me what i was doing. I told them i was going to kill myself. They asked me to put down the knife but i didn’t. Instead of shooting me they just asked me to sit cross legged (i guess they wanted me to slow me down in case i went crazy and wanted to attack them). Then you know what they did? The office got a lawn chair (from my neighbors house) and f*****g TALKED to me for two hours.
He threw me a coke a couple times during those hours and and three other squad cars showed up. You know what they did? They asked if i wanted a burger (i didn’t). Meanwhile the first cop kept talking to me and asking what;s wrong. I cried like a f*****g baby as i explained to him why i wanted to kill myself. Finally I got up and threw them the knife like they asked and they took me to the hospital. Didn’t even cuff me after i gave them the knife. Just asked me to get in the back of the squad car.”
Smith added that he believed that Way’s motive the entire time was to commit “suicide by cop,” which is when suicidal people provoke the police in an effort to end their own lives.
Justin’s parents do not believe their son was a threat, because they think Justin was shot while still lying in bed. Way’s parents pointed out a hole in the middle of the mattress and noticed that the blood was contained entirely within the mattress, with none hitting the walls or the floor. George Way said, “If Justin was coming after them with a knife, at 6-foot-4, wouldn’t there be blood splattered all over the room?”
In a phone interview with Commander Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, The Daily Beast asked whether or not assault rifles were necessary for a suicide call, to which Mulligan responded yes, “If the deputies feel that that is the appropriate weapon system to use.”
“They were in a very tight space within a residence,” he said, adding that the difference between an assault rifle and a handgun is irrelevant in Way’s case. “A bullet comes out of a handgun, a bullet comes out of a rifle.”
This wasn’t the first time that law enforcement in the area had been involved in a fatal shooting. One of the two officers that went into Justin Way’s home, Kyle Braig, was involved in a fatal shooting with a knife-wielding man five months ago.
On Facebook, Jonas Carballosa, the second deputy involved in the Justin Way shooting, once posted, “Most people respect the badge. Everyone respects the gun.”
Way’s parents said they do not ever want to call the police again for any reason, and Lyons added that she hopes the police rethink how guns are used in cases where people are calling about those who are suicidal or seeking help.
“I think they should come in using other things,” she said. “And I think they definitely need to figure out how to handle suicidal people.”