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A look at the Baker Act after man attacks police during mental health visit in Cape Coral

SW 2 Terrace OIS
Posted at 5:38 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 20:01:56-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — On Tuesday, we took a deeper look at the Florida law police can use to remove someone from their home when they’re experiencing a concerning mental health issue.

This comes after Monday morning when police say 31-year-old Yosef Bekermus was shot and killed outside of his Cape Coral home after attacking an officer who was there for a mental health check.

Cape Coral Police Chief Anthony Sizemore told me it was a request for the Baker Act that led police to the home on SW 2 Terrace.

Doctor David J. Thomas, Professor of Forensic Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University said the Baker Act boils down to two things.

“Is the person a danger to themselves or a danger to somebody else,” said Thomas.

It's the only two questions Thomas said Cape Coral officers needed to answer after family members requested the Baker Act.

Cape Coral Police said 31-year-old Yosef Bekermus was in a manic state, creating a desperate situation according to his family who contacted police directly.

Police Chief Anthony Sizemore said this wasn't Bekermus' first run-in with law enforcement.

“We have numerous incidence in the past at this location, violent encounters,” said Sizemore.

A violent encounter, turned deadly after Sizemore said an officer shot Bekermus three times after Cape Coral Police say he hit the officer with a metal pipe during a mental health check.

Doctor Thomas told me the Baker Act allows police to detain someone and have them examined in a mental health facility after police are described or witness someone acting bizarre.

“They make that determination based on asking the questions or watching the behavior and then they transport,” said Thomas.

Cape Coral Public Information Officer Brandon Sancho says their Baker Acts are transported to Salus Care and Park Royal, both depending on bed availability.

Sancho said Park royal does not accept juveniles and if those facilities are full, police transport them to the hospital.

Thomas says anyone can request a Baker Act, but they have to meet the criteria, of being a danger to themselves or others.

Doctor Thomas said it's up to the mental health professionals–not the police if someone can be cleared to leave.

An unfortunate realization for Thomas on Tuesday was when he was told how the situation with Bekermus ended.

“I feel bad for the family because they came and asked for assistance and then I feel bad for the officers because they had to use deadly force in order to stop this encounter,” said Thomas.