Mental health advocates urge immediate action after SAPD officers charged with murder in death of Melissa Perez

‘This is a wakeup call for San Antonio,’ advocate says

SAN ANTONIO – Melissa Perez, 46, was shot and killed by San Antonio Police officers as she was presumed to be experiencing a mental episode last week.

Dan Packard, the attorney representing her family, said Perez was diagnosed as schizophrenic and was taking medicine. What she needed when police arrived Friday was help, he said.

“The first words were, ‘You’re going to get shot.’ It would have been more appropriate to say, ‘We’re here to help. We’re concerned about you. We’re going to get you the care that you need,’” Packard said, referring to the police officers who killed Perez.

Doug Beach, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) San Antonio, is demanding a deep and honest probe of the mental health training San Antonio police officers receive and the numerous mental health units and programs.

“This is a wakeup call for San Antonio,” Beach said.

“We need to really review what exactly went wrong and why. But also, we need a significant new investment. We need a new commitment on the part of the city and the police department to the training,” he said.

Money and quick access to help is a hurdle, but it’s not impossible, Beach says.

He said the community and families must be dedicated long-term to those suffering from a crisis.

“What if this was your family member? How would you feel? What would you do? And I think as a city, we need a recommitment to investing in the resources to provide better public safety for people who are experiencing a mental health (crisis),” Beach added.

He said getting help for loved ones, friends and coworkers needs to be a community-wide commitment to prevent another death like Perez’s.

NAMI has a “warm line” for resources available to families before a crisis. For more information, call 210-734-3349.


About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.