William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sat, 22 Oct 2005 19:42:42 -0400

Sat, Oct. 22, 2005


Homeless man killed by Huntsville police looking for escapee

Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Two Huntsville police officers remain on administrative
leave with pay pending an investigation into the fatal shooting of a
homeless man during the search for an escapee.
Herman Eugene Mercer, 58, described as mentally ill and reportedly armed
with a knife, was shot and killed Thursday by police.
Police searched for an escaped Madison County jail inmate and came upon
Mercer's campsite under the Interstate 565 overpass. The escapee, Bobby Ray
Bickers, 36, later was captured.
Police spokesman Wendell Johnson said he wasn't sure if the city's mental
health officer had been called to help deal with Mercer.
"It might've all happened too quickly for that. We won't discuss further
details until all of the facts are known," Johnson said.
Sherry Birney, a chaplain advocate for Huntsville's homeless, said she had
met Mercer many times at his campsite. She said when he became frightened or
distressed, he would become aggressive in his speech.
"He isolated himself under that bridge for years," she said. "Herman isn't
the first and he won't be the last paranoid schizophrenic person living on
the street that police will have to deal with."
She said officers need training in how to deal with the mentally ill.
"Rather than shoot him, why not back away or call the mental health officer
or at least get the police dog to tend to him?" she said.

Information from: The Huntsville Times,  http://www.al.com/hsvtimes/hsv.html