U of C Students Demand More Mental Health Services After Police Shooting

Students and community members demanded Friday more mental health services instead of police action to address students in crisis on the University of Chicago campus.

The demonstration came after a campus police officer shot 21-year-old student Charles Thomas in the shoulder earlier in the week. The shooting was captured on the officer's body camera. University police were responding to calls of a burglary and property damage when they encountered Thomas in an alley in the 5300-block of South Kimbark.

In both dash and body camera video, the student was seen running toward officers with a metal object.

His roommate, Dale Lastres says Thomas’ family has a history of bipolar depression.

"The guy on that video is not Charles," Lastres told NBC 5. "It’s not the person I’ve known for the last four years, he’s never hurt anybody threatened anybody or anything like that."

Karl Fogel was also in the area when the shooting happened and said he witnessed Thomas' irratic behavior. Fogel said he believes Thomas was a threat to pedestrians in the area. 

"It was a direct threat," he told NBC 5. "He was dangerous."

He said it would be clear to anyone on the street that they were in danger.

"I saw another pedestrian run away," he said.

Lastres says Thomas went to mental health services on campus weeks ago for help.

"They referred him off campus to seek treatment outside of the university," he said.

For privacy reasons university officials can not confirm or deny whether or not Thomas sought mental health care.

Resources are available 24 hours a day on campus, the university said.

"We have a 24-hour a day therapist on call and a full suite of mental health services through our student counseling service," dean of students Michele Rasmussen said.

But students who organized Friday's rally say more needs to be done, Rasmussen acknowledged.

Katheryn Yin is one of those students.

"If you’re having mental health crisis on campus or off campus you shouldn’t be afraid of being shot," she said.

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