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Yale University colleagues question Little Italy shooting victim's death

Little Italy OIS Dr. Yan Li
Little Italy OIS
Posted at 2:15 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 21:44:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A dean from Yale University is speaking out about the deadly officer-involved shooting of his former colleague in Little Italy.

He and other academics who knew Dr. Yan Li are questioning why the accomplished scientist was gunned down after she allegedly stabbed an officer.

Dr. Sten Vermund, MD, PHD, is the dean of the School of Public Health. "We are not law enforcement experts and we cannot comment as Monday morning quarterbacks," he acknowledged. However, he told ABC 10News that the body camera video shows that Dr. Li was clearly in a state of crisis, agitation and doubt related to the eviction notice that she was being served. "It seemed reasonable to someone looking at that body cam [video] that a response that was more mental health-oriented might have been superior to one that was forceful," he added.

According to the San Diego Police Department, the March 3rd shooting happened after officers got a call for "urgent cover" from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department after deputies served an eviction notice to Dr. Li, who, police claim, opened her door but was uncooperative and armed with a knife.

Officers reported that she shut the door and they waited for additional resources. During that time, a neighbor reportedly said that she threatened a maintenance worker the day before with a knife.

Police report that they spent nearly 45 minutes trying to talk to her, but she remained uncooperative. According to a press release, they gathered appropriate resources, developed a plan, and the front door was opened to make contact with her, at which time she reportedly stabbed a K9 officer, prompting officers to shoot her. The K9 officer is reportedly okay.

ABC 10News asked SDPD whether a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) was ever contacted, but a department spokesperson said that they cannot comment on an open investigation.

Dr. Vermund and his colleagues support an independent review of the shooting and are hoping that Dr. Li's case sparks a broader discussion about applying more mental health resources to law enforcement calls.

"This is probably occurring in many circumstances with, perhaps, people who are not as visible to the public [and] not as privileged educationally [and] have not had a distinguished career working for the pharmaceutical industry in biostatistics, and at the end of the day we have to remember them, too," he added.

ABC 10News also reached out to the Sheriff's Department for comment about whether any mental health clinicians were called. We are waiting to hear back.

The Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board confirmed on Tuesday that it's planning to conduct its own independent investigation into the shooting.