ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Following the police shooting of a 16-year-old in Española, new training is coming for law officers and educators in northern New Mexico to spot when someone needs help.
Rio Arriba county health officials say the Española Police shooting death of 16-year-old Victor Villalpando shows police and teachers not prepared to help people with mental illness. They’re now hoping that emergency funding they just received from the state will help.
The county received the emergency grant money from the state in just two days. All of it should train nearly 200 police officers and educators in hopes they can prevent another death like Villalpando’s.
“We don’t want more tragedies,” said Lauren Reichelt of Española.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” said Roger Montoya of Española.
After police shot and killed 16-year-old Villalpando in Española this month, both Roger Montoya and Lauren Reichelt say they knew they had to do something to make sure it wouldn’t happen in their town ever again.
“We have to really make a difference out of this tragedy,” said Montoya.
“It’s extremely important,” said Reichelt.
Villalpando was shot in the chest by Española police in early June. New Mexico State Police say he made the 911 call that lead to his death.
“Yes, I’m over here at ‘Loving Oven’ and there’s some crazy kid out here and I don’t know what he’s doing but it looks like he has a gun in his hand,” said Villalpando to 911 dispatchers on the day of the shooting.
Española Police say an officer shot Villalpando when he pointed a toy gun at them. Now, nearly three weeks after the shooting, Villalpando’s longtime mentor Roger Montoya says they’re making progress to help others. in Rio Arriba county who are suffering from behavioral issues.
“I think it’s a grand step,” said Montoya.
Montoya and Rio Arriba County’s director of Health and Human Services Lauren Reichelt just secured an emergency $12,000 grant from the state for new mental health training in response to Villalpando’s death.
“So this training won’t do anything for the boy who was killed but maybe we can prevent the next shooting,” said Reichelt.
Rio Arriba county will use the money to give 180 people, including police officers, sheriff’s deputies and teachers one day of mental health training.
“The idea is to get them to recognize signs of depression anxiety, psychosis,” said Reichelt. “More of this is going to happen if we don’t train our police because they are the first responders.”
Montoya says he hopes it makes a difference in Victor’s memory.
“I think that he would respond by saying “right on” you know, make this work,” said Montoya.
The county says Española police have already agreed to send its officers to the training. They’re hoping to hold the training as early as this July.
Rio Arriba County’s Health and Human Services Department says it’s working on setting up Crisis Intervention Training for officers. They say many in law enforcement there haven’t had the training in years because of state budget cuts.