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Lakeland woman's problem opens discussion on police response to mental health

Incident at McDonald's in Polk County
Posted at 7:46 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 19:48:56-04

LAKELAND, FlA.  — A Lakeland woman's defense team is speaking out on the charges against her, after an incident at a Mcdonald's.

Tianis Jones is visibly still affected by the attention she’s receiving after an outburst she had at a Lakeland McDonald's last week, went viral.

“They should have went into more detail about the story and investigated the story before they let out any footage or any videos to the public,” Jones said.

Jones is being charged with burglary with assault, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and misuse of 911 stemming from the May 19 incident. Her attorney Jeremy McLymont said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd used a press conference to ridicule and mock Jones.

“I don’t know if she was like two fries short of a happy meal or maybe it was she was short of a happy meal completely, but she created a McMess and she acted like a McNutt,” Judd said during the presser.

Klyvia Vargas said her daughter attempted suicide after the press conference, where Judd made light of the situation.

“My daughter tried to commit suicide two days after that and if I wouldn't have walked in on time, she would've been successful,” Vargas said.

According to Jones's attorney, she’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. She has not been taking her medication because she’s pregnant.

“When Sheriff Grady Judd gets on his stand and he gets to talking about what happened on that day in McDonald's when he starts to mimic Tianis Jones, he doesn’t realize that his comments are very dangerous. He doesn’t realize that he’s affecting Tianis' mental health,” said McLymon.

Mental health educator Natasha Pierre, said the sheriff making light of the situation, further stigmatizes mental illness.

“Elected officials and our leaders, they set the tone for conversations. They set the tone for how people respond to mental illness,” Pierre said.

Sherriff Grady Judd doubled down on his actions, in a statement to ABC Action News:

Look back at our initial news release on May 20, 2022 and my briefing to the media…we were trying to locate an obviously hostile woman who had committed a felony at McDonald’s. She violently disrupted the business and her actions were threatening toward employees, and then she fled. She knew her outrageous conduct was wrong, but she did it anyway. In other words, if you can’t do the McTime, don’t do the McCrime. We got the result we wanted; she was arrested and charged. She now has some McLawyers to defend her while we’re moving on to other crimes to solve. The next one could be a Whopper.

Pierre would have liked to see crisis intervention training, in this case.

“We’re not asking deputies and law enforcement to be experts on mental health but we are asking them to have foundational understanding of what people in behavioral health crisis are experiencing,” Pierre said.