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'Where was my help?' | Parents of man shot, killed by police at Buckhead restaurant say they called 911 for help with mental health crisis

Family of 22-year-old Nygil Cullins said their son was suffering from mental health issues at the time of the shooting.

ATLANTA — The mother of the 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by Atlanta Police on Wednesday at the Fogo de Chão restaurant in Buckhead said she called 911 to try and get help for her son, in the midst of a mental health crisis, directly before the incident.

The mother of Nygil Cullins, Mya Cullins, said she went to great lengths to explain the situation to the 911 dispatcher, specifically asking for someone well-trained in dealing with mental health episodes.

It was her "biggest fear that he was gonna get murdered by police."

"When I got on the phone with them, I said, 'He's an African American male, please make sure whoever shows up is trained and knowledgeable so when they deal with my son I don't have to worry about my son being killed,'" she said.

RELATED: What we know about the Atlanta Police shooting of a man at Fogo de Chão in Buckhead

But, by her account, police took nearly two hours to show up. When they arrived, they had just missed Nygil by maybe 10 minutes.

Despite the parents' efforts to keep their son at his apartment, he had left, got on MARTA, and eventually made his way to the restaurant in Buckhead. 

That's where police say the business made a 911 call about an "unruly" person with a gun at the restaurant and, when officers arrived and tried to escort him out, he somehow broke away and shot a security guard who tackled him. The officers then shot and killed him.

Credit: Mya and Quinten Cullins

In speaking to reporters, the mom repeatedly stressed the lengths she had tried to go to in order to avoid the tragic outcome of her son's death, fearing it was exactly what would happen.

She said she even called Riverwood Behavioral Health System ahead of time to make sure they had a bed available, and told 911 dispatchers she would follow police there and fill out the paperwork when they arrived. She said "all you have to do is transport him."

"They failed my son," Mya said Wednesday. "This is a (mental health) history, I understand that. That's why we work together as a family to make sure that he gets the help that he needs. We also depend on law enforcement and other professionals to do their job - if you just would've heard our cry for help." 

She focused much of her anger and disbelief at the length of the response time to her original 911 call. 

Nygil's father, Quinten Cullins, said when they did arrive he asked them if they were there for the "1013" call - in Georgia, a call to "initiate transportation to an emergency receiving facility."

"They said 'yes.' I said, 'it's too late, now he's gone,'" Quinten said.

Mya said it was "not even 45 minutes later" after the paramedics and police left the apartment that the shooting at Fogo de Chão occurred.

"Where's my help?" the mother asked. "When this happened here at this establishment in Buckhead, they come immediately - but you made me wait almost two hours."

If the police would have come even just an hour or so after the call, instead of nearly two, the mother said "my son would've still been here." 

She added that when the first responders at the apartment left, they didn't ask any questions that might have helped police later recognize the situation at the restaurant. 

"If they said, 'What did he have on?' 'What's the description?' X, Y and Z - guess what, when they came to the scene they would've recognized that my son was that same African American young man that is struggling with a mental health issue that his mother tried to call and warn about," she said. 

"I would've rather him been in the psychiatric hospital than outside in a body bag," Mya added.

APD said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is responding and will investigate the police shooting. Meanwhile, the security guard shot is believed to be in stable condition.

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