Pinal County deputy forced to shoot mentally ill man who refused to drop knife

A Pinal County deputy had a run-in with a mentally ill man wielding a knife.

Around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 13th, a woman called 9-1-1 to report that a man had a knife and was acting very strange, says Tim Gaffney with the Pinal County Sheriff's Department.

The woman told deputies that she witnessed the man swinging the knife around as if he was "practicing stabbing and jabbing." He then walked towards a light pole and appeared to be in a "confrontation" with the wooden light pole, Gaffney said. The man started to "stab, shave and slit" the light pole. The subject then stood on one foot as if "teetering on the edge of cliff." A short time later he put his foot down and walked away.

Deputies responded to the area and located the man, who was later identified as 37-year-old Daniel Mejia.

A deputy made repeated verbal commands for Mejia to drop and knife. Instead the subject advanced towards the deputy and told the deputy he was going to harm him, Gaffney said.

The deputy pointed his handgun at Mejia and told him to stay back, but Mejia continued to approach the officer with the knife still in his hand. The deputy feared for his safety and shot the subject, according to Gaffney.

A short time later, as deputies were investigating the shooting incident, a family member told detectives that Mejia always carried two knives and that he suffered from severe mental health issues, Gaffney said.

"Law enforcement across the country are frequently put into crisis situations involving people affected by mental disorders," said Sheriff Paul Babeu. "Dealing with individuals who suffer from mental illness is often difficult as it carries the potential for violence. In this case, the deputy feared for his life as Mejia came towards him with a knife and he refused to obey his commands. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Mejia family who lost their son and also to our deputy who was forced into this situation."
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