NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Family says woman killed in deputy-involved shooting suffered from dementia and mental illness

Posted at 10:28 AM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-16 10:28:17-04

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Adrean Stephenson's family says she was a sweet 63-year-old grandmother who suffered from mental illness.

"She had Pre-Alzheimers and dementia. She had several medical problems as well," said Nicole Pipitone, Stephenson's daughter and caretaker.

On August 2, Stephenson's family called 911 after she got violent and ran out of the house with an eight-inch knife.

When deputies found Stephenson hours later, they say she had multiple self-inflicted wounds, was bleeding and then came at deputies with the knife.

Deputies say after multiple commands to drop the weapon they deployed a taser but it did not work, so they shot her. Stephenson died at the scene.

"An 11-second decision ended my mom’s life. In front of me. I fell to my knees in the middle of the street," said Pipitone.

On Saturday, protestors marched in Sarasota, holding signs that read "Justice for Adrean" and "Stop killing people with disabilities."

"When you reach out to the police you’re looking for help and for the end result to be death is heartbreaking," said Alaina Martinez, Leaders Rights organization.

Stephenson's family says they support law enforcement but want changes like social workers or negotiators brought on calls where dispatch is told about mental illness.

"I want to make it clear, I’m not mad at the police. I just believe that they need more resources, more training. There has to be a better way," said Thomas Pipitone Jr., Stephenson's son-in-law.

At a press conference the day after the shooting, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight admitted more needs to be done when it comes to responding to mental health emergencies.

"It’s unfortunate. This is exactly what we’re talking about in our society. About, what’s the fill-gap with the need for law enforcement to be involved with mental health issues and what’s that look like for the future of our nation and our society," said Knight.

Stephenson’s family says they’re advocating for change because they don’t want the sweet grandmother to be only remembered for the violent way she died.

"We believe that there’s got to be a better way. This can’t happen to people with mental health, especially the elderly," said Thomas Pipitone Jr.

Stephenson's family says they are collecting funds to help with funeral expenses. If you're interested in helping, visit their GoFundMe.