A woman died after lighting a fire and then stabbing herself in the neck near a Longview gas station in early January.
Now the family is questioning why their loved one died after her encounter with the officers who were called to help her, as police and mental health professionals continue to grapple with how to help people who might not want aid.
Police say a roughly six-month-old program to house mental health professionals in the Longview Police Department is linking people in need with care and limiting repeated crisis calls, but even the added effort can fall short.
“Sometimes, these things just end up as tragedies,” said Longview Capt. Branden McNew.
Stephanie Harlan said she and her husband, David Harlan, Sr., were leaving the Longview Snap Fitness around 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 when they saw a woman on the corner of Ocean Beach Highway and Cascade Way near the Shell gas station light a fire inside a suitcase.
People are also reading…
The couple pulled over to call 911 and took video of people trying to put out the flames, Stephanie Harlan said.
Kehden Brewer, 19, of Kelso said he carried the gas station’s bin of windshield wiper fluid from the Chevron across the street and extinguished the fire while the woman’s back was turned.
24/7 Mobile Crisis Hotline
General line: 1-800-803-8833.
Cowlitz County: 360-425-6064.
Grays Harbor County: 360-532-4357.
Source: Columbia Wellness.
She soon relit the flames. Another person approached, and the woman lit aerosol can spray like a torch to fight him off, Brewer said.
When the police arrived, the woman pulled out a small tool and stabbed herself twice in the neck, David Harlan said.
Both David Harlen and Brewer said officers asked her to drop the weapon, but the woman held on. She was tased, David Harlan said, and she slumped forward. A police report says she then dropped the weapon and told an officer, “Let me die” when he started to administer aid.
“When they approached her, they immediately started CPR,” David Harlan said. “Those officers did everything they could to help that woman.”