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911 calls shed light on moments before police killed man at Fogo de Chão in Buckhead

It's unclear if police realized Nygil Cullins was suffering from a mental health crisis and made the connection to the 911 call his family had made hours earlier.

ATLANTA — 11Alive received two 911 calls made from inside the Buckhead Fogo de Chão Wednesday before police fatally shot a man. The Atlanta Police Department said officers fired at 22-year-old Nygil Cullins after he shot a security guard who tried to tackle him inside the restaurant. 

Cullins' mother told 11Alive she called 911 to try and get help for her son, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis, directly before the incident. 

"My son is in the apartment and he's going through his manic phase. I'm a doctor and I know the signs," Mya Speller Cullins told the 911 operator. 

In the call, she asked for someone well-trained in mental health to respond. She told 11Alive it took more than two hours before police showed up. By then, her son had already left, making his way to the restaurant. 

"The pain that I feel is a pain that I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy" she said.

The 911 calls from Fogo de Chao offer fresh insight into what was going on inside the restaurant.

"We have a guy in here with a gun, and he's acting very, very weird," a man said during his first call to 911.

That same man called 911 again about 10 minutes later and sounded slightly more flustered.

“He pushed the bartender out of the way, and you know, like I said, he’s got a gun in his…uh… belt," the man said. 

The caller said the man did not point the gun at anyone at the time, but he was yelling and agitated. 

Police said when they responded, they found Cullins at the bar, and he resisted them. An officer tried to tase him, but it didn't work. Then investigators said Cullins pulled out a gun and started firing it in the restaurant, striking a security guard. Officers fired back at Cullins, killing him. 

It's unclear if police realized Cullins was suffering from a mental health crisis and made the connection to the 911 call his family had made hours earlier in Midtown. 

We brought the family’s concerns to APD, but they refused to comment and instead sent us their policy.

APD's policy outlines how to deal with people having a mental health crisis. It includes, in part, approaching the subject in a calm manner, contacting a mental health center if the person becomes upset, and treating adults as adults -- not as children. 

Former DeKalb County Public Safety Director Dr. Cedric Alexander, who served on several law enforcement boards, said he believes police followed procedure to end a public safety risk. 

“This person, the subject, the deceased, pulled a weapon, shot a security guard, and therefore the police officers, acting within the purview of their responsibility, saw others and themselves in imminent danger," Alexander said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating. Once complete, the case file will be given to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office for review.


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