A black mother called 911 for her son’s mental health crisis. Tempe PD brought rifles, a riot shield and a K-9.

By: - June 5, 2020 11:54 am

A Tempe police officer aims his assault rifle down the hallway of an apartment complex in January. Police arrived on the scene with rifles and riot shields in response to a mental health call Adrienne Bryant made because her son was having a manic episode. Screenshot via Tempe PD body-worn camera/public records

Adrienne Bryant had called 911 for a mental health crisis with her son before, so in January, when she had to call the Tempe Police again, she wasn’t prepared for the response: officers in riot gear, a K9 unit and rifles aimed at her front door.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Bryant cried and pleaded, “Don’t let them kill my son please,” as officers escorted her down a stairwell.[/inlinetweet]

An officer leveling his AR-15 at the doorway to her home yelled out to her son: “Raymond, it’s the Tempe Police Department. Come out with your hands up! We’re here to help.”

Except Raymond wasn’t her son’s name.

Her son, Randy Evans, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder a few months prior. A day earlier, a doctor had changed his medication levels. 

Now Randy, 28, was having a manic episode, in which a person with bipolar disorder can have elevated emotions.

Bryant had called 911 hoping to get a crisis response team to help get Randy to the hospital, like she had done just a few months earlier.

But a mistake by the dispatcher who took the call led the family down a different path. 

During the chaotic beginning of the 911 call, the dispatcher asks Bryant for her son’s name. Bryant can be heard saying Randy, but the dispatcher says back “Raymond.” Bryant, focused on helping her other son, Eric, get all the knives in the house put away, and didn’t hear the dispatcher repeat back the wrong name. 

But it was the misheard name that rained down trouble that day, and every day since: Raymond Evans had a warrant out for his arrest for a probation violation and was a felon.

“The response was based on the totality of the information obtained in the 911 call, which was placed by his mother, and not specific to any mental health aspect of the call,” Tempe Police Spokesman Det. Greg Bacon said in an email response when Arizona Mirror asked if riot shields and rifles are how the department typically responds to a call for someone having a mental health crisis.

A night she wishes she could forget

As the Tempe Police were gearing up to respond to what they thought was a felony offender, Bryant stayed on the line with the dispatcher even as she worked to calm her son. In the 911 call, Bryant can be heard repeatedly saying “Randy” – to the dispatcher, to Eric and to Randy himself. 

When the police arrived, they yelled that they were there instead of knocking on the door. Bryant’s other son, Eric, opened the door and walked out into the apartment complex hallway. 

Bryant, who is black, said she’ll never forget what she saw. 

Red dots from the officers’ TASERs lit up his shirt as they yelled orders at Eric. “Hands up, lift up your shirt, turn around!” came the shouted commands.

She froze. 

“I’m concerned my son is going to be killed all because I called 911 for a mental health call,” Bryant told the Mirror.

She rushed out her apartment door and saw the officers at the end of the hallway: One held a riot shield, two were pointing TASERs and two others were aiming military-grade assault rifles at her. Confused and angry, she asked the officers to stop, but they kept telling her to calm down. 

The officers told Bryant it was too dangerous for Eric and her to stay. Panicked, she tried to tell the officers Randy’s mental health history, but was ignored, an officer telling her they knew it already. 

Bryant, crying and upset, protested and tried to tell them Randy was in a “manic mode.” 

But the officers wouldn’t listen. Instead, body-worn cameras captured them threatening her with arrest.

“Listen, I don’t want to have to put you in handcuffs,” the officer escorting her down the stairs told her. 

Bryant questioned why he would handcuff her. 

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]“Because we’re trying to deal with this and you’re obstructing, you’re going to go to jail for obstructing, OK? Walk! Walk!” yells the officer, forcefully pushing her along as they go down the stairwell.[/inlinetweet]

With Bryant and Eric downstairs with other officers, the riot-gear-clad officers upstairs were set. 

Eric has been speaking to the officers downstairs, and has convinced them that Randy wasn’t threatening his family and no crime had been committed. 

“So, why did they call?” a police sergeant on-scene asked the officer who explains Randy Evans’s manic episode. The sergeant counters that it could count as “disorderly conduct.” 

Officers can also be heard on the body-worn cameras telling Bryant and Eric that they came in armed because they were also told by dispatch that Randy had knives and was threatening his family. 

That wasn’t the case, Eric explained: Randy didn’t threaten anyone with knives, and Eric had gathered them all in his room and was planning on keeping them away from Randy. 

However, now that police had ordered him out of the apartment and downstairs, there was nothing stopping Randy from getting to the knives. 

Records obtained by the Mirror show that police were sent information from dispatch that Randy had knives and was getting a gun. The truth was far more complicated. 

Randy had attempted to get knives, but Bryant and Eric made sure he couldn’t get them. However, they wouldn’t be able to let police know about this until after they were later removed from the apartment.

At one point, Randy can be heard in the background of the 911 call warning the family that if they did bring guns into the house it would mean someone would die. When dispatch asked Bryant if guns were present, she emphatically told her that there were none in the home. 

Despite this information given to dispatch by Bryant, CAD readouts obtained by the Mirror show that police were sent information that Randy “does have knives on him” and that he was seeking a gun.

A CAD readout is the transcription of the radio calls to and from police and dispatch.

Tempe Police also told Bryant they had Randy’s phone number and would call him to get him to come out. Except the number they were calling belonged to Raymond, the wanted felon.

After prodding from Bryant and Eric, police were able to get a hold of Randy using the correct phone number. As they did so, the K9 unit, riot shield officer and other officers stood down. 

When police finally spoke to Randy, he came out of the apartment. As he spoke to officers, he rambled and jumped from topic to topic. The police took him into custody without incident.

However, once in custody Randy’s troubles worsened. 

Passing the buck

Bryant has medical power of attorney over her 28-year-old son because of his severe mental illness, allowing her to make medical decisions on his behalf. 

Randy had been in the hospital shortly before Bryant called the police that January night. During his hospital stay, a doctor had lowered his medication. Bryant expressed her concern to the doctor, and she thinks that change led to the manic episode that prompted the call to police. 

She had hoped that Randy would go back to that hospital. Instead, Tempe police sent Randy to Community Bridges and petitioned the court for him to undergo psychiatric treatment. 

Randy would make one more trip, this time to St. Luke’s Hospital after injuring himself at Community Bridges.

When Bryant arrived to see her son, she noticed his name tag said “Raymond Evans.” 

The workers at St. Luke’s said that Tempe police had sent the petition to the courts in the name of Raymond Evans with the alias of Randy Evans. 

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Now her son’s name in official court documents was not even his own. [/inlinetweet]

Bryant said she was confused and furious. She phoned Tempe Police looking for answers, but was told it was Community Bridges who filed the petition. 

Nearly five months later, Bryant still has not been able to get a copy of the original petition from the Tempe Police Department. 

The Tempe police report says Randy told police multiple times while in custody that his name was Raymond. A review of the body-worn camera footage appears to dispute that claim. Randy never once calls himself Raymond to officers. 

“Please note, police were provided that Randy’s name was ‘Raymond Evans,’” the report says before a large redacted section. “It should be noted, during transport to Community Bridges, when Randy was asked what his name was, he told police “Raymond Evans.” 

Whether that actually happened is unclear: This portion of the body-worn camera footage was entirely muted by Tempe police when it was released to the Mirror and to Bryant. The police department told Bryant it removed the audio because officers were making phone calls and asking for identifying information about the son over which she has medical power of attorney. 

Bryant said she was told Randy’s name would be fixed, but weeks would go by without a court hearing. His identity remained an alias for a wanted felon

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Her son, now out of the hospital, is driving around with the name of a man who was still at large and had warrants out. She fears for his life.[/inlinetweet]

Finally, after hiring an attorney for $5,000, she was told the case was dismissed but found out the petition still remained. Her attorney is still fighting to get the petition removed. 

She desperately sought answers from Tempe about how this could have happened. Tempe PD initially said it was a “dispatcher error.” 

Bryant kept pushing, demanding an internal investigation. She was told one would be opened. 

She spoke with the detective in charge and was told that since she “was cursing” at the dispatcher, the case would be closed. Bryant did curse once on the call, telling the dispatcher “goddammit, my phone number should show up (with) the address” when asked where she lived. 

Her emails now go unreturned. 

Bryant told the Mirror that Tempe police told her it has done all it can do from a “customer service standpoint” and will only speak to her in an “off-the-record conversation.” 

“They’ve made up their mind,” Bryant said. “I think they will only oblige a conversation because they know I will not go away.”

Since the incident, her other teenage son, Eric, hasn’t left the house. She thinks he has PTSD from the hallway confrontation with the police. She thinks she does, too; she still cries when talking about it. 

Bryant said she was told she would get a meeting with Police Chief Sylvia Moir when she brought her story to a community meeting earlier this year. The meeting didn’t take place before the pandemic, and is now on hold due to COVID-19.  

Bryant had called in the past for Randy when things had been tough and Tempe Police had responded before and had been “great” she said. The daughter of a peace officer herself, she knows the job can be difficult, but she wants accountability for what happened that night. 

Community Bridges said they rely solely on what police give them and that they don’t double-check names on petitions. 

Tempe PD: ‘No violations’ of procedure

Tempe police told the Mirror that “officers responded in the manner in which they did to protect the lives of all of those involved.” The officers that responded were “trained in mental health and crisis intervention as well as negotiation.”

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Tempe Police Department denied that it responded to a mental health call with riot gear and assault rifles because of confusion over Randy’s name.[/inlinetweet]

“The response was largely based on the information contained in the 911 call, specifically indications of weapons, such as Randy possessing a knife,” Bacon said. “Anytime there are mentions of weapons, officers are going to respond with the most effective resources available at that time to include shields, helmets and options of less lethal.”

In the body-camera video an officer mentions that Randy has “51s,” police code for outstanding felony warrants. 

“That information was pursuant to the information obtained in the call comments that the subject possibly had warrants for his arrests,” Bacon said. That information was later determined to be incorrect as it was attached to the name Raymond Evans. 

Tempe Police Department said it has reviewed the incident and “it was concluded there were no policy or procedure violations.”

The agency did not respond to questions about how Randy’s name continues to be confused with Raymond Evans. 

“We do not have any additional information to provide reference (to) this incident,” Bacon said in response to the Mirror’s questions. 

Bryant said she feels both lucky and unlucky at the same time. She wasn’t even supposed to be home that day. 

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]“I could’ve been walking home that day to two dead kids,” Bryant said[/inlinetweet], a tear rolling down her cheek. 

“Any one circumstance could have turned that in the wrong direction.” 

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.