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Mom whose daughter was shot by police calls for 'Batman Device'

Charity Baker lost her daughter, Leah, when JSO shot and killed her. Leah, a mental health patient, lunged at police with a knife. Now new tech could save lives.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Charity Baker isn't lashing out at police. But she's asking a question. A very important one.

Was there a better way?

If police had used the BolaWrap instead of a gun, would her daughter still be alive?

The BolaWrap is a hand-held device that looks much like what Batman uses. It deploys a Kevlar cord with grappling hooks, which zip around a suspect's legs and arms. The suspect cannot, therefore, run toward police with a knife or, say, a bat or stick.  

Easter weekend, Charity Baker's daughter, Leah, opened the door to her group home and lunged towards a JSO officer, stabbing her in the arm. The State Attorney's office ruled the shooting justified.

Credit: Wrap Technologies

The mom says her daughter had recently been in and out of eight different mental facilities as a patient with "paranoid schizoaffective disorder and PTSD." 

During a loud confrontation with police, there were a few seconds Leah dropped her knife, as the public can now see on body cam video released by JSO.

Credit: Baker Family

If JSO had been equipped with this new lasso technology, would there have been time to disable her arms and legs and avoid shooting her to death?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But Charity is hoping JSO will acquire the BolaWrap technology because she says she knows the pain so many other families endure with mental health issues. 

According to JSO Information Officer Chris Hancock, JSO is now deciding whether to test the device or actually purchase it. The timetable is unknown. 

Dr. Chuck Lorbeer, a licensed clinical social worker, reviewed the BolaWrap technology. He says, "I think it's a brilliant idea." 

He points out how widespread mental health issues are in our society now: "We think 25% of the population has some type of mental health diagnosis or could be diagnosed."

Los Angeles Police Department Lt. David Bluestein, who has 900 officers now field testing the BolaWrap, says he is pleased to see a method of non-lethal force. 

"It's unfortunate police officers have become mental health workers ... and it's not what we're trained for," he says.

Mom Charity says the pain of losing her daughter cuts deeply. And now even more deeply with a recent tragic turn of events.

Credit: Baker Family

On Oct. 23 this year, her son, Jared took his own life. She says he was totally distraught over losing his sister because they both had mental health issues.

"She was his best friend," she says, "and the only one who really understood him." 

Credit: Baker Family

The Baker family's pain underscores why police departments are looking at this new device. Tom Smith, president of the company making the BolaWrap, Wrap Technologies, says more than 240 agencies in the U.S. now have the wrap to test or they've already bought it.

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