Danielle Jacobs, a 24-year-old woman with Asperger’s syndrome, was shot dead by police, who were responding to a suicide call at her residence in Mesa, Arizona on Thursday, reported ABC 15 Arizona. Last year Jacobs earned praise for sharing a YouTube video of herself being comforted by her dog, Samson, during a meltdown. Millions viewed the clip.
Jacobs’ mother Stacia told the New York Daily News officers were well aware of Jacobs’ special needs before entering the residence. “Before the police arrived she wasn’t posing a threat to the community at all,” Stacia said. “And the police came into her own place. They shot and killed a 24-year-old autistic, mentally ill individual whom they had been familiar with and aware of her special needs.”
Detective Esteban Flores, of the Mesa Police Department, confirmed to AZ Family that officers responded to a suicide call at the same residence two years earlier. When officers made contact with Jacobs on Thursday, she told them she had a knife and was going to hurt herself, Flores told the news outlet. “When she made contact with them she approached [two officers] with the knife, extended it out, and they felt threatened,” Flores said, adding that they fired their duty weapons. The incident is currently under investigation.
“I talked to her last night and the night before and she seemed fine,” Stacia told the NY Daily News. Stacia added that people close to Jacobs questioned whether the shooting was necessary, adding that Jacobs was known to be a “caring young woman.”
When Jacobs’ meltdown video first went viral, she told The Huffington Post, “When I have a meltdown, I often have self-injurious behavior and I often self-harm.” That video has since been made private.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to Danielle’s family and friends,” Dr. Julian Maha, founder and CEO of the autism nonprofit, Kulture City, told The Mighty. “This tragedy highlights the increased need for first responder training to teach first responders to effectively interact with autistic and special needs individuals. The training will give them much needed tools to effectively communicate with autistic individuals, help keep both parties safe and hopefully prevent tragedies like these.”
No law enforcement officials were injured in the incident, and the officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard for officer-involved shooting situations, reported ABC 15 Arizona.