Pima County Sheriff speaks on mental health crisis after 17-year-old dies following attack on deputy

KOLD News 5-5:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 5:52 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - KOLD is learning new details about a shooting involving a Pima County deputy over the weekend. It left a 17-year-old boy dead and a deputy seriously wounded.

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos is speaking up about how mental health may have played a role in this incident.

″We still struggle with how we handle mental health. My personal belief is that, dealing with mental health that disorder, should not be a law enforcement function. There are people who are better equipped,” he said.

Sheriff Nanos confirms that 17-year-old Zakareya Ibrahim was dealing with mental health issues when he called 911 Saturday night. Sheriff Nanos says they have a crisis response team to handle mental health cases, but he believes the deputy on scene may not have had time to make that call.

“This thing happened so fast and unfolded so quickly, literally that young officer was in a fight for his life and did all he could, which was very little to prevent this from happening,” he said.

The sheriff says things need to change when it comes to handling mental health calls, and he is extending condolences to Ibrahim’s family.

KOLD spoke with neighbors about what happened that night.

″I would say there were four shots maybe five at the most. So I didn’t think too much about it and then I heard immediately afterward a blood-curdling scream. It was the most awful scream,” said a neighbor who asked to stay anonymous.

This neighbor always said hello to the family whenever he saw them. The morning after the shooting, he talked with Ibrahim’s father.

″He was very distraught obviously and he was telling me, ‘not a good day. My boy was killed last night.’ It floored me because I know the kid,” the neighbor said.

Ibrahim’s family is originally from Sudan. They came to Tucson in 2012 and had close ties with the Refugee Resource Center, which helped them adapt to life in the U.S.

″We’re very sad about Zakareya Ibrahim passing away. He was one of the young boys in the community that we watched grow,” said co-director Randiesia Fletcher.

The Refugee Resource Center as well as Ibrahim’s family are still hoping to uncover everything that happened the night he died.

Sheriff Nanos says Deputy Eduardo Toral, who was stabbed with a pair of scissors, is still in serious condition, struggling with paralysis.

The deputy who shot and killed Ibrahim has been identified as Taylor Dunn, a 3-year veteran of the department. The case is now being investigated by the newly-formed Pima Regional Critical Incident Team.

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