“The police aren’t equipped to deal with mentally ill patients,” Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins said. She told TMZ that police shot and killed her cousin last week. Watkins also announced that her family would file suit against Peoria Police Department for her cousin Eddie Russell Jr.’s death. Russell, Watkins said, was mentally ill.

The Peoria Journal Star reported the family attorney’s remarks about the case.

“It was unjustified, it was excessive force, and the family demands answers and a full investigation,” attorney Andrew Stroth said Tuesday at a news conference in front of the Peoria Police Department.

“The family demands reform, and the family demands justice,” Stroth said. “We want to make sure that the city of Peoria and the Peoria Police Department and the Illinois State Police do a full and transparent investigation into what happened last week to Eddie Russell Jr.”

Peoria police landed 17-20 shots on Russell, who was 25 years old, and suspected of involvement in a same-day bank robbery. However, the Journal Star also reported inconsistent police statements. Inconsistencies raised questions about the officers’ veracity. Eddie Russell Jr.’s case, and public interest in it, follows pressure for improved police training. Disability justice advocates want officers trained better to work with populations that have disabilities and other vulnerabilities.

The call remains to bring about change between police officers and the often of-color, disabled communities the officers are employed to serve and protect. When police do not learn how to de-escalate encounters with Black people, and are not societally punished for de-escalation failure, danger increases. Police officers often make gut-instinct determinations about how to respond to people of racial, ethnic and ability minorities. As Christal Hayes wrote for Newsweek, “Police have become the de facto social workers in society, sometimes with disastrous results for the disabled.”

T-Boz told TMZ supporters can follow #JusticeforEddieRussellJr for more information.

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