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Term "Officer Anxiety" not a specific mental illness
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- The term "Officer Anxiety" has been getting a lot of heat. Last week in a press conference, Sheriff David Morgan said officer anxiety was the reason deputies fired 15 times at Roy Middleton.
Middleton was unarmed and getting cigarettes out of his car, in his own driveway. Deputies were responding to a vehicle theft call and thought Middleton was trying to steal the car. The Sheriff said Middletown didn't obey order and lunged at them. He said officer then shot because of officer anxiety.
Psychologists say that officer anxiety is not a specific mental illness, but the issue is widely studied in the law enforcement community. Dr. Richard Houghis an expert on the use of force and the stress behind it. He's spent 30 years in law enforcement. He currently trains officers at the police academy and students at the University of West Florida.
Although therapists say officer anxiety is not a classified illness, anxiety is a real thing that can impact any profession. He said, "Officers are on a heightened sense of awareness. The most calm scene can turn violent in an instant, and then a violent scene can come under control but the emotions of people can make it become out of control again.
Sheriff David Morgan says 15 shots were fired at Roy Middleton after he wouldn't show his hands and lunged at the deputies. Middleton said in an interview with CNN he was fully compliant. Middleton said, "
"How would I lunge at somebody, how am i going to lunge out of my car. Only thing I had in my hand was a keychain and the keychain has a little cigarette lighter on it."
Dr. Hough has been on the scene of several officer involved shootings and says unless you were there, it's hard to describe exactly what the officer was feeling at the time. He said, "The movement anyone might have may spell danger, it may be precursor that the person has some sort of weapon in their hands." He continued, "Anything someone has in their hand, unless you can positively identify it, could be a threat."
Middleton's family says Roy was no threat and the term "officer anxiety" only raises more questions. His sister, Rosa Middletown said, "What kind of cops do you have that get anxious in a situation and you're supposed to be trained to handle those types of situations so that's not acceptable, not acceptable."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says their investigation into the shooting could take six months to a year.