A Victoria man who was arrested as a teenager with an untreated mental illness avoided spending more time in a jail that his family says exacerbated his symptoms and caused him to rack up more charges.
Tyler Shelton, 20, pleaded guilty Tuesday to burglary of a building.
In exchange, the district attorney’s office dismissed five counts of aggravated assault of a public servant and one count of assault of a public servant that remained against him.
Shelton will spend the next five years under the supervision of the probation department for the burglary of a building charge, and if he completes the term successfully, the charge can be dismissed.
“Good luck to you, sir,” Judge Eli Garza said to Shelton, who had been before him to resolve his cases at least eight times.
Shelton’s mother, Kristen Herrmann, waited nearby to take him to the probation department across the street.
“I think he’s just relieved to finally put this behind him and focus on his future,” she said Tuesday.
Shelton referred questions to his attorney, Eddie Wilkinson, who asked that the questions be emailed. Wilkinson did not respond by deadline Tuesday.
The Advocate also reached out to District Attorney Constance Filley Johnson by phone and email. She responded via email that the case was resolved in this way to hold Shelton accountable for his actions but be mindful of his needs at the time of the incident. Filley Johnson campaigned last year that she’d like to divert people with mental illness and addictions from the criminal justice system.
“We will always evaluate cases with a mental health component individually and continue to partner with other agencies in our community to best bridge the gap in available services. We recognize that law enforcement faces enormous challenges in these situations and are grateful to the men and women of the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office for their cooperation and support of the just resolution in this matter,” she wrote.
Herrmann came forward with her son’s story after the sheriff’s office issued a press release in September 2017 that he had assaulted jailers who had tried to take a shirt from him that he had fashioned into a noose.
She explained Shelton has bipolar I disorder, and the Victoria Advocate learned through interviews and open records requests that she and other family members were the ones who called the sheriff’s office about the building Shelton burglarized.
His family said Shelton was off his medication and thought the building belonged to him, but records showed mental health officers were not available to respond. He was taken to the jail rather than to treatment. His family said at the jail, he went without medication for even longer.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people in mental health crises are more likely to encounter police than get medical help. This has led to 2 million people with mental illness being booked into the county jails every year. The majority are not violent.