SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – On Corey Road in Sarasota Springs, there’s fresh flowers and a purple cross in memory of Adrean Stephenson. The 63-year-old was shot and killed by Sarasota County deputies during a confrontation earlier this month that stemmed from a domestic battery call.
Her family tells 8 On Your Side Stephenson has mental health issues. She was having a breakdown that turned violent when they called 911 for help.
“We called for help. We didn’t want her to hurt herself obviously. She went out the door with a knife and that is the last time we saw her alive,” said Stephenson’s son-in-law Tom Pipitone.
The investigation into the deputy-involved shooting is still underway. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says Stephenson was armed with an 8-inch filet knife when she ignored multiple verbal commands and continued to approach deputies. Following an unsuccessful taser deployment to de-escalate the situation, a sergeant on scene fired two fatal shots.
Pipitone and his wife, Nicole, feel the situation shouldn’t have ended in Stephenson’s death.
“I understand the officer has a family to go home to and I am not mad at the police about this. I just think that they need to have more resources and better training for incidents just like this,” said Pipitone.
Sheriff Tom Knight agrees the tragedy shouldn’t have happened. He says there’s a major lack in services available to families dealing with mental health crises, leaving them no option other than calling 911.
“We are not mental health professionals. We are well trained to triage things, to Baker Act people, to take people into custody and protect them from themselves,” said Sheriff Knight.
In the last year, the sheriff’s office Baker Acted more than 1,300 people and more than 6,300 in the last five years.
“We have done 6,300 in five years with no problems and we had one tragedy.. that is a tragedy that didn’t need to happen like the family is saying. We agree with them and I agree with them as Sheriff. It didn’t need to happen., but they had nowhere to turn in a violent situation. They called us to protect them and we had to protect the community and protect the deputies and a tragic thing happened,” said Sheriff Knight.
The sheriff says the lack of services locally has lead to a breaking point.
“There is such a wide gap in services available. We are starting to see tragedy happen now purely because of a lack of social services and lack of mental health services,” said Sheriff Knight. “We need services, we need funding. The Sheriff’s Office is well funded, well trained… The deputies on that scene were well trained. We have everything we need… What we don’t have is professional mental health programs that families can call in lieu of calling police,” he continued.
The Pipitone family plans on reaching out to state and local leaders in a push for more mental health funding, training…