Memorandum on Oak Ridge officer-involved shooting reveals heartache

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — No criminal charges will be filed against Oak Ridge Police officers in the shooting death last August of Fred. C. Arcera.

A memorandum by Dave Clark, the 7th Judicial District attorney general, explains why. In the narrative, Clark describes what happened on Aug. 15 when officers were called to Arcera’s residence on Briar Road in Oak Ridge.

Clark writes that Arcera is a military veteran with “known mental health problems,” and notes that Arcera had been released from in-patient treatment at the Veteran’s Administration just a few days before the shooting.

In the narrative, Clark describes how Arcera, bleeding profusely from self-inflicted cuts, raises large butcher knives above his head and lunges at officers who are at the home to render aid. He is demanding the officers kill him. The officers fire 13 rounds in self defense, 10 of which strike Arcera. They then attempt to render aid.

The investigation finds that statements from witnesses, including firefighters, neighbors and Fred Arcera’s father, match. At least one in-car camera and 911 calls to dispatch recorded the scene.

“All of these sources of witness account, video recording, audio recording are consistent with the reports of Anthony Arcera (Fred Arcera’s father) as well as Officers Jeremy Phillips, Corey Fritz and Joseph Gibson,” the district attorney writes.

The report references a toxicology report that lists substances found in Arcera’s body. Alcohol, alcohol metabolites, THC (marijuana) and THC metabolites, caffeine, nicotine metabolites, Trazadone (sedative), gabapentin (antiepileptic/anticonvulsant) as well as risperidone (anti-psychotic) and risperidone metabolites are found in Arcera’s system.

“There was suspected marijuana and prescription medications found in subject Arcera’s bedroom that were all consistent with toxicology results,” the memorandum states.

Officers were cooperative, each previously earned certifications in Crisis Intervention Training. The report states that officers do not have any use of force policy violations in their personnel files.

“The investigation does not reveal circumstances that could reasonably provide grounds for a criminal charge against any of the three officers involved. The investigation and file will be closed,” the memorandum states.

It is what comes next that distinguishes this memorandum.

Clark includes this epilogue:

“Having completed the principal purpose of the investigation and this memorandum, I cannot help but record my sense of tragedy that these circumstances represent as well as a sense of frustration. Fred Arcera was a military veteran who had deployed to a war zone on behalf of our country and had been injured. While it isn’t clear whether the injury was in combat, otherwise in the line of duty or through some other means, he was apparently a disabled veteran. He was receiving mental health care from the Veteran’s Administration, but, at least in hindsight, it is obvious that his mental health issues were not under control shortly after he was released from in-patient care.

As prosecutors, we are in the business of doing justice and holding those who violate our laws personally responsible through the criminal justice system. That said, too often, we see in this community and others across our state and country that crime often occurs as a results of drug addiction, mental illness or a combination of the two. Drug addition can lead to mental health problems and mental health problems can lead to drug addiction. Drug treatment resources are in short supply and mental health services are also rationed due to the meager supply of services and the great need for them. It is acknowledged that it must be difficult for our leaders to make decisions about how to allocate scarce public resources.

Anthony Arcera knew his son was in trouble. He believed he had been released from in-patient care too soon and traveled to Oak Ridge to be with him and ultimately take him back to his residence in North Carolina. It is hard to imagine how he could have done more for his son. While Officers Phillips, Gibson and Fritz fired fatal shots, it was Fred Arcera’s mental health problems that killed him. His pain obviously caused him to seek death; judged not only by his obvious actions but also his words. He told his father he wanted to die and before his own efforts that day were successful in ending his own life, he demanded and ultimately succeeded in forcing the police to shoot him.

One cannot help but wonder if Fred Arcera had received different care or placement whether he would be alive today and all involved would have been spared the grief and hardship that was caused.

Fred Arcera was buried last August in Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery with full military honors.

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