Mobile Police Chief pleads for mental health help in Alabama following shooting of five-year-old girl

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Mobile Police arrested a woman accused of shooting a five-year-old girl Tuesday morning, but before taking 29-year-old Tonisha Ellis to Metro Jail, Police Chief Lawrence Battiste spoke about how this case is part of a national problem.

He was talking about mental health. Chief Battiste said this is not Tonisha Ellis’s first arrest by Mobile Police, and without the help she needs, he thinks it may not be her last.

Mobile Police report Tonisha Ellis fired three shots after being asked to leave a home on Marine Street where she was visiting. One of those shots hit five-year-old Zedaya Cook in the neck.

Chief Lawrence Battiste said, “There were two other small children that are, were severely traumatized by what took place there and I believe based off just my brief conversation with seeing the children inside the residence, that they were probably much more traumatized by the event than even Zedaya was. They were crying their sister had been injured.”

Chief Battiste said Zedaya is conscious and alert and she’s expected to be okay, but what happens next with this case is difficult. He said, “You want to hold somebody accountable, but you also realize that we’re dealing with not a normal situation, we’re dealing with somebody that has, has some severe what I believe to be mental problems.”

In Alabama, there is work being done for mental health. Currently, House Bill 166, which would fund and create a mental health court in Baldwin County, is waiting for the senate local legislation committee. In October of 2020, Governor Kay Ivey announced nearly $20-million for mental health crisis centers around the state including one in Mobile.

Ellis was out on probation at the time of the shooting for attempted arson. Chief Battiste said it was a similar situation with Ellis being asked to leave. He said, “Think about it, I just said 2018, she, the incident in which arson second, and she pled guilty. She served two years in jail, but obviously, her mental health needs have not been met the way they need to be met, and until we can do that, we’re going to continue to have incidents like this.”

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