As a New York Police officer was being beaten in the face with a metal chair, he managed to fire his service pistol at his attacker, killing the man. However, even as he lay in a coma in the hospital, his attacker’s family demanded a transparent investigation.
Just before 6:00 p.m., New York Police were called to the Gold Mine Nail Salon after an employee reported 26-year-old Dewayne Hawkes for entering the premises and urinating on the floor. While being questioned, the intoxicated man became belligerent, which ultimately escalated into a brawl with the two officers.
As the officers struggled to restrain Hawkes, 33-year-old Kwesi Ashun, who had seen the brawl through the shop’s front window, burst into the salon and attacked 21-year veteran Officer Lesly Lafontant, first beating him with his fists before picking up a metal chair and bludgeoning him in the face and head. When his partner’s Taser didn’t stop Ashun, Lafontant had one last option.
Officer Lafontant, 53, managed to unholster his duty weapon and fire off six rounds, four of which struck Ashun, halting the possibly deadly attack. Ashun was pronounced dead at the scene, and the injured officer was rushed to the hospital for “serious physical injury.”
Officer Lafontant suffered multiple orbital fractures, an eye injury, and a broken cheekbone, which were so serious that he had to be placed into a medically-induced coma for several days. However, despite his horrific and nearly fatal injuries, the officer now has to face an attack of another kind.
According to the New York Daily News, Ashun’s friend, Kabar Walker, said that Ashun was not a threat to anyone, and alleged that the officer’s use of deadly force was “excessive,” which has sparked an investigation. Before Lafontant could even fully recover from his injuries, the suspect’s relatives engaged in interviews, claiming that the attacker was “peaceful.”
“The people in his life that love him were not afraid of him because he was peaceful. We were, however, always worried for him — especially as a black man living with mental illness in this country,” said Alma Ashun, Kwesi Ashun’s sister.
Kwesi Ashun suffered from mental illness.
According to his family, Ashun suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was allegedly not regularly taking the medication needed to cope with his mental illnesses.
“He struggled with mental illness and we tried desperately to get help for him to no avail,” said Ama Bartley, Kwesi Ashun’s sister. “Eleven days later, this is what happens…We tried, we really tried to get him help. He was a beautiful soul. He was just battling some heavy things.”
Kabar Walker, Ashun’s friend, was clearer in his accusations. Walker said that Ashun was never a threat to anyone. He then suggested that mentally ill individuals be allowed to wear “some kind of wristband or color band” to let the police know that they are disturbed, WNBC reports.
“He was less than threat than a person who had a knife or a gun,” he told the paper. “You [also] have [a] partner to help you too, to restrain him in some way, without having to use deadly force on him.”
Despite family and friends’ claims, Ashun had a history of violent crime. In 2004, he slashed Officer James Sinnott from his ear to his neck in an unprovoked knife attack. Sinnott was merely walking past him when Ashun launched the attack and walked away.
Ashun’s family had asked for help from the New York Health Department’s “Mobile Crisis Team,” which determined that he wasn’t a risk to himself or others. Less than two weeks later, the disturbed man assaulted Officer Lafontant.
It’s great to raise concerns for mentally ill individuals not being able to receive the help they need, but blaming a police officer for defending his own life against a violent attack isn’t going to bring Ashun back.