Another Mentally Ill Man Killed By Police in Phillipsburg, NJ


We reported on October 28, 2014 that a mentally ill man was gunned down execution style in Saginaw, MI. This time the victim was 36 year old Tommy Read of Phillipsburg, NJ.

Read was schizophrenic, and had been unable to get his meds due to insurance issues. A concerned friend, Joel Adreano, was asked by Read’s mother to go and check on him. Unable to visit Read, Adreano called him on the phone and was greeted with a delusional Read. According to Lehigh Valley Live, Read was “talking about flaming swords” and was “obviously delusional”.

Tommy’s mother then contacted police to have them visit him. According to her, they did, as well as some of his friends who reported that he seemed calm and happy.  But Police went for a return visit on Monday, which is when the incident in question occurred.

Phillipsburg Police claim that they responded to a “welfare check”. This was in response to reports that Read had posted threatening letters and allegedly stuck a knife through his door. But, according to Adreano, Read had never left his apartment.

Though details are limited at this point, officers involved in the incident claim that Read was armed with a knife and had refused officers’ requests to drop the knife.  A cellphone video taken by a neighbor shows Read speaking with police through his window and peeking around a curtain with the knife. After hurling an object through the window, an officer attempts to break the rest of the window to climb through, but fails and falls backwards. Police then went around the back of the house, entered, and gunshots were heard. The manner of death is still under investigation.

Adreano and his father feel the situation could have been handled differently. “He needed help,” Adreano’s father, a retired mental health nurse said. “He needed to get to the hospital because he didn’t have his medicine.” Adreano also claims that police knew about Read’s schizophrenia, and could have avoided the situation.

Although we don’t know the entire story at this point, it does raise questions as to whether the police were equipped to handle this situation and prepared to deal with a mentally ill person. Cornering a schizophrenic person is never going to end well, as it will only exacerbate their paranoia and force them to act even more irrational. Perhaps a better alternative would have been to get a mental health professional on the scene first before getting police involved. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer now as Tommy Read has become another victim of police violence.