LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A grieving Lancaster family has hope for change after Senator Bob Casey introduced two police reform bills.
In September, 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz of Lancaster was having a mental health crisis so his family called for help and those calls were directed to the police.
When a Lancaster police officer got to their home, Ricardo charged him with a knife, and the officer shot and killed him.
Now Senator Casey is introducing two police reform bills to try to prevent deadly shootings like that one from happening again. Ricardo’s sister Rulennis Munoz said Casey’s team reached out to the Munoz family to ask for their input about the legislation.
“It’s time for change,” Munoz said, “I was also grateful that they actually involved us by calling us and talking to us and listening to us.”
One of Senator Casey’s bills would give more funding to local 211 call systems that people could reach out to for mental health situations like Ricardo’s, instead of relying on police.
“We don’t have to call police for help when it comes to a non threatening and a non criminal situation,” Munoz said. “If that was put into play before we could have used that and that could’ve changed the outcome.”
His second bill aims to give more training to officers about dealing with people who have mental illnesses.
“They need to learn. Because not everybody is a criminal. Some people that are sick don’t have control over their actions and what they’re doing,” Munoz said.
These bills still have an uphill battle in Congress. But even if they pass Munoz says the work won’t be done.
“There’s definitely more that needs to be changed. But this is definitely a start and we are definitely grateful,” Munoz said.
The family is hopeful that changes like these could save loved ones like Ricardo.
“It’s hard but at least you look for a better future and prevent this from happening to anyone else,” Munoz said.
Munoz says they also want to see Hispanic leaders in Washington D.C. involved in these bills, as well as more services to help Spanish-speaking communities access resources that can help them with mental health challenges.
Beyond these reforms to policing the Munoz family also wants justice. The family’s lawyer says they’ll be filing a civil lawsuit against the city of Lancaster and the police department in the coming weeks.