Community leaders call for action after death of Dante Kittrell

Loved ones mourn the loss of Dante Kittrell, who was shot and killed by police on Friday.
Loved ones mourn the loss of Dante Kittrell, who was shot and killed by police on Friday.(16 News Now)
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 11:58 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A deadly officer-involved shooting in South Bend leaves many community members with questions.

It happened outside Coquillard Elementary School on Friday, where St. Joseph County Police say 51-year-old Dante Kittrell was threatening suicide as he waved a gun.

Dozens of faith and community leaders gathered at the vigil for Dante Kittrell, or Donny, as his family called him after he was shot and killed by police Friday afternoon. The most common issue discussed was accessible mental health resources.

“Police do what they are trained to do,” said St. Paul Bethel Baptist Church Pastor Gilbert C. Washington. “They did what they were trained to do. We need more intervention; we need more training. We need to have a different mindset towards our society and toward black people in our society. We need to drop our fears, be more courageous in terms of how we go about healing our country, county, and city.”

Faith leaders are asking for the appointment of a special prosecutor from outside of St. Joseph County to fairly and unbiasedly review all evidence and for the release of body and dash cams to the public.

“We want 10% of the police budget in clinician lead non-law enforcement mobile crisis response teams so that they can deal with situations that involve mental health,” said Northwest United Methodist Church Pastor Vickie Van Nevel.

“Suffering from mental health problems should not be a death sentence in America,” said Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church Pastor Claval Hunter.

They also call for Mayor Mueller and South Bend Chief Scott Ruszkowski to meet with faith and community leaders and promptly address these issues.

Mayor Mueller released a statement Monday regarding the police-involved shooting, saying that more needs to be done to strengthen mental health services and that the city will hold a forum to discuss crisis procedures on August 23rd.

While there was sadness and frustration at today’s event, Pastor Washington wanted to remind the community the only way to move forward is together.

Pastor Washington concluded by saying, “The Black community is hurting. It’s hurting, and how do you go about that kind of healing? You embrace them. There is an existential threat in our country and in our community, and we have to answer that threat with love and courage.”

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