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Harris County Deputy Kills Mentally Unstable Woman During Welfare Check

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After four hours of unsuccessful negotiations, a Harris County Sheriff's Office deputy killed a 54-year-old suicidal woman in Katy after she pointed a gun at deputies through a window they had broken.

Just after 2 p.m., Lucille Espinosa's mother called 911 telling operators that Espinosa was threatening to kill herself, as well as anyone who tried to come into her house. When deputies arrived for a welfare check, she was holding a pistol.

According to spokesman Thomas Gilliland, Espinosa later said, "If I'm gonna die, I'm gonna take some of you with me."

The Critical Incident Response Team, a mental health clinician, the High Risk Operations Unit and the Hostage Negotiations Team were all called to Espinosa's home in far west Harris County, in the 20400 block of Blue Beech Drive. For hours, the teams attempted to coax Espinosa out of the home.

"She had been decreasingly degenerating through the whole day, getting more violent and belligerent," Gilliland said. "She didn't want to talk to negotiators; she didn't want to talk to anyone. We'd talk to her for a few minutes, and then she'd hang up the phone. That went on through the afternoon."

Around 6 p.m., deputies decided to break a window on the lower level of Espinosa's home in order to establish a visual of her, Gilliland said. This also would have allowed them to toss in a chemical irritant that might force Espinosa out of the home, or to send in a robot instead of a deputy to establish a visual of Espinosa.

Asked at what point deputies would have stood down, Gilliland said that, in these types of situations, deputies would have stayed as long as it took to get her to come out. He said, "She was a threat to herself and the general public. She had walked out before in the public area waving a gun around. If you have someone with a weapon who's unstable, to keep her contained is one thing. But the negotiations would never start. She just kept getting more violent."

When Espinosa pointed her gun out the window directly after deputies broke it, Gilliland said, at that point, "they were forced to fire on her." A member of the High-Risk Operations Unit fired the single fatal shot, according to HCSO.

Gilliland said it is unclear what mental or medical conditions the woman suffered from and that deputies were unable to determine what had caused her to become so upset to begin with.

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