‘They could have stopped it all’: Family says IMPD failed suicidal man

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INDIANAPOLIS- “It was like any other conversation,” said Vanessa Pacheco, of Westfield, who described what happened September 29, 2020.

But then the fall day took a complete turn.

“He’s not giving the baby back. If he has to give the baby back, he’ll put a bullet in his head,” said Joshua Kublnick in a 9-1-1 dispatch call obtained by FOX59’s Beairshelle Edmé.

Kublnick’s brother, Jacob, 27, had a fight with his girlfriend, Vanessa Pacheco, later driving off with their newborn, Giselle, with a gun under the seat. Pacheco soon called 911 to report violent threats she says her boyfriend made around 6:15 p.m. Jacob eventually made suicidal calls to his brother, who soon after called 911 too.

“Made threats of A-12 (a code for suicide). And I know he owns a pistol. I don’t know if he has it with him, but it’s escalating,” the elder brother told dispatchers.

The former Muncie police officer and former Delaware County reserve deputy says his old training kicked in when his brother told him he planned to kill himself.

Jacob Kublnick with newborn daughter, Giselle

Eventually, the 27-year-old returned with his infant unharmed, and waiting for him were his girlfriend and IMPD officers.

“You could tell like something was going to happen because even the officer said he’s going to do something stupid,” detailed Pacheco. “He (the officer) had a gut feeling, like he knew. He knew he wasn’t acting right. He said he had it coming– something bad was going to happen.”

Sadly, around 7:45 p.m. that day, a friend found Jacob with a gunshot wound and he later died. That same friend, like Pacheco and two Kublnick brothers, also called 911 to help Jacob.

With at least four people calling IMPD for help, the elder Kublnick says he expected officers to respond to the mental health crisis and prevent his brother’s suicide by offering care.

They basically put the pistol in his hand as far as I’m concerned… If we hadn’t called the police and handled everything on our own and we had the same outcome, the police would have showed up and said, ‘This is why you should have called the police; this wouldn’t have happened,’ but we did call them.

Joshua Kublnick, brother of Jacob Kublnick who died by suicide

Pacheco says before leaving, the responding sergeant knew Jacob just made suicidal comments to her, and he simply advised if she felt uncomfortable that she leave with her newborn since no threat was made directly to her.

Jacob Kublnick with girlfriend,
Vanessa Pacheco

“Now unfortunately, he is not (here), but I feel like the officers as well could have done more,” the grieving girlfriend teared up discussing the fatal day. “Asking him questions like, ‘Do you feel suicidal? Do you want to be taken to get help?’

The 26-year-old new mom says that did not happen, and FOX59 found IMPD protocol requires officers ask questions when responding to mental health crises, like Jacob’s.

“So all of our officers are equipped and trained with the ability to slow things down and talk to people to try to discern what’s going on in the situation,” detailed Commander Catherine Cummings, who spoke in general about IMPD’s mental health protocols.

FOX59 looked through IMPD’s general orders, and it says:

“Employees must rely on their training and experiences to recognize signs of mental illness. These signs and symptoms may include: (10) Suicidal or homicidal ideations.”

IMPD General Order 4.7

That same policy requires officers who see these signs should “request the assistance of a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) member, when available.”

Officers can later “determine the best course of action based upon the overall circumstances, applicable laws, and department policy” including:

  • Offer mental health referral information to the individual and/or family and friends
  • Assist in coordinating a voluntary admission to a treatment facility.
  • Place the subject under an Immediate Detention.
  • Make an arrest.

“We don’t hospitalize,” said Cummings, who now manages IMPD’s training program. “The officers take the person into custody and transports him or her to the nearest emergency department where that person is then evaluated by medical staff… There’s criteria that must be met to meet the statute to qualify for immediate detention”

Asked if suicide qualifies as a criterion for the statute, Commander Cummings answered, “You can’t just say suicide and that automatically equates to immediate detention… That– so no.”

FOX59 investigated what responsibility the law places on officers and found,

A law enforcement officer, having reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has a mental illness, is either dangerous or gravely disabled, and is in immediate need of hospitalization and treatment, may do the following: (1) Apprehend and transport the individual to the nearest appropriate facility. The individual may not be transported to a state institution. (2) Charge the individual with an offense if applicable.

Indiana Statute 12-26-4 Sec. 1.

Jacob’s mom, Cindy wonders how threatening suicide and being armed wasn’t considered dangerous enough for more action, as allowed by Indiana law and required by IMPD protocol.

Asked if she thought IMPD officers did the right thing, the mother reflected, “No. I just– I just felt like think they really let him down.”

Kublnick family

She later added, “I go through it every day in my head and what happened and stuff could have been differently. If I would have got there sooner– I could have stopped it all. If they (the officers) would have stayed there, they could have stopped it all.”

For nearly seven months, FOX59’s investigated this case– including radio traffic. Dispatchers did tell officers several times that Jacob was suicidal. We checked the police report, and a responding officer was CIT-certified, but the Kublnick family says that training didn’t kick in. We did hear an officer request a supervisor, but the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team (MCAT).

MCAT is a unit that responds specifically to these types of mental health crises with licensed Eskenazi clinicians.

When we interviewed with IMPD, officials could not discuss this specific case, but told us MCAT isn’t available 24/7. With only four MCAT teams at the time of Jacob’s death, it’s possible a team isn’t available when officers request one, but Metro Police leaders say every officer is trained on how to handle mental health crises.

“Any type run, whether someone’s just experiencing an emotional reaction to a really bad situation or someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, we train our officers to slow everything down in both of those situations,” Cummings explained.

Nationwide, police departments, like IMPD, are working to respond differently to mental health emergencies with medical professionals.

Commander Cummings tells FOX59 over five years, IMPD’s made significant progress, but still faces challenges, including funding mental health efforts and staffing them.

When the Kublnick family listens back to their actual calls for help that day, the former officer says he doesn’t see the progress IMPD touts and that their mental health training didn’t help save Jacob.

“If he’s not okay, and he did shoot himself then somebody’s going to have some explaining to do because I made it very clear that he was suicidal and the police weren’t there.”

Joshua Kublnick, brother of Jacob Kublnick

The elder Kublnick brother made that final 911 call at 8:35 p.m., not knowing Jacob was pronounced dead 17 minutes earlier. Listening to this same call six months after he made it, Kublnick said, “I called, spoon-fed them exactly what was going on, what they needed to know, and they chose to do absolutely nothing, and we don’t have any understanding on what was more important than asking my brother is he okay or if he’s going to put a bullet in his head like he’s telling everybody else. Well they left and 10 minutes later that’s exactly what he did. He put a bullet in his head.”

The Kublnick family says nothing will bring back Jacob, who now leaves behind a 11-month-old baby girl.

As they move forward, the family hopes their story could spark some change in the conversations Hoosiers have at home about mental health. They also want to encourage Hoosier lawmakers to change standard law and police policy language from police “may intervene” to “shall intervene”, placing responsibility on all officers to act in these mental health crises.

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