'He was hurting and he needed help,' mom of man firing guns and killed by Buffalo Grove police says
A man firing two guns was shot and killed by Buffalo Grove police early Thursday, in what is the first officer-involved shooting in the village's history, authorities said.
Police said the man, identified later Thursday as Brian Christopher Howard, 25, of Elgin, may have called 911 to bring the police response that led to his death. Although he had an Elgin address, Howard recently had been living with family in Buffalo Grove, police said.
His mother, Kristine Howard, told the Daily Herald Thursday night that he had struggled with anxiety and depression since his teenage years but was taking steps to get better and about to start a new job Monday.
"Brian has just been struggling for a while with mental health issues and stuff. He's been working with a psychiatrist and counselor and trying to be his best, but he was on some meds that I think was just messing with his head," Kristine Howard said.
"The main things I want people to understand is he was just a sweet, sweet person. He would've done anything for anybody, and he wouldn't have hurt anybody. He was hurting and he needed help."
Two officers were dispatched about 12:30 a.m. for a call about a man with a gun at Radcliffe Road and Boxwood Lane, near a vacant church's parking lot.
Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steven Casstevens said at a Thursday morning news conference that the 911 caller told dispatchers, "There's a dude standing out there and he's all crazy."
The caller added that the man was dangerous, and armed with a 9-mm handgun and .45-caliber handgun.
"The dude just popped off two rounds," said the caller, according to Casstevens.
When asked by the dispatcher who the gunman was, the caller replied, "Well, that would be me," Casstevens said.
The dispatcher asked Howard at least seven times to drop his weapons to speak to the officers, but he refused, Casstevens said.
When the officers arrived, they found Howard moving toward them holding a gun in each hand. The officers told him to stop and drop his weapons, but he didn't, the chief said.
As Howard continued walking, he fired a shot from each gun. It was unclear if he fired into the air or in the direction of the officers because it was dark and not a well-lit area, Casstevens said.
While Howard continued to advance, one officer fired several rounds from his handgun, but none struck him. The second officer fired the shots that struck him, Casstevens said.
It's not yet clear how many shots were fired in total, he said.
The officers performed CPR until paramedics arrived, but Howard died from his injuries, the chief said. Neither officer was injured, but both were taken to the hospital for observation and have since been released.
The officers will be on paid administrative leave during the course of the investigation, which is being led by the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Neither officer has yet been interviewed by the task force, but that is scheduled in two days, the chief said.
Casstevens said he viewed squad car dash camera video of the shooting, which is now being reviewed and analyzed by task force investigators before it is publicly released.
"No officer ever wants to take the life of another person," said Casstevens, adding that his officers are trained in de-escalation, critical incident response and mental health first aid. "That being said, officers are often placed in split-second decisions where they are forced to take action that unfortunately results in deadly force."
"This entire situation progressed very quickly, and I believe these officers did everything they were trained to do to avoid this type of outcome," he said.
But Howard's mother said Thursday night she wished police had better training on issues of mental health.
"I just feel like if somebody had done a better job of trying to reach out to him -- I don't think he wanted to die. I think he was just hurting so bad. I don't think he knew," Kristine Howard said. "I'm sad and I'm angry and I don't know how to make things different, but the reason I want to talk about this is I don't think mental health issues should be a death sentence."
She said it was typical for her son to go to Mill Creek Park, next to the vacant church, to think. Earlier Wednesday, he had an interaction with another family member -- an episode that was "not easy on him," his mom says -- but he said he was fine when she left for work at 7 p.m.
"He did the peace sign and said, 'I love you, Mom,'" Kristine Howard said.
At some point after 8:30 p.m., he left the house and his sisters couldn't find him. One of them went to the park. When she got there, the police were already there, Howard said.
Police recovered two handguns from the scene: a Smith & Wesson 9-mm semi-automatic, and Smith & Wesson .45-caliber semi-automatic. Both were loaded, and shell casings from both also were recovered, Casstevens said.
Howard had a previous interaction with Buffalo Grove police, an impaired driving arrest in 2017.
Casstevens said he doesn't believe there were any eyewitnesses to the shooting.
While there was video and audio captured from the squad car, Buffalo Grove police officers do not yet have body cameras. The chief said the department will have them in place before the new state mandate goes into effect in 2025.
Authorities also plan to release audio from the 911 call, but only after the task force is done with its investigation.
• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson and Jake Griffin contributed to this report.