Family of man tased near Oz Fitness wants change in mental health system



Posted on June 6, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 6 at 7:22 PM

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash.--The parents of a man tased on Spokane’s South Hill in June of 2013 spoke out exclusively to KREM 2 News on Friday.

Spokane County deputies tased and struggled with William Berger in June of 2013. He later died from his injuries. Witnesses said Berger was acting crazy. Berger's family said he had three manic episodes in his life that required medication.

The former reserve deputy’s parents said they wanted something positive to come from the tragedy.

“We're all emotional train wrecks. I got to celebrate father's day with on less child last year,” said William Berger’s father, Bill Berger.

The week that Berger died was supposed to be one of the best of his life.

“He had signed papers for his house that day,” said Bill Berger.

Bill Berger said his son had many successes.

“34-year-old with a master degree in criminal justice, spoke five languages,” said Bill Berger.

Berger’s parents said he battled a mental illness. They said something about all the excitement leading up to his final days triggered an intense mental episode. Bill Berger said he tried to get his son some care.

“We checked him into the ER for an eval. All the people he saw that day said he was manic. They gave him medicine. He took a pill that evening, again the next morning,” said Bill Berger.

Bill Berger said he thought his son’s mental state was improving. He drove his son to the gym on that Thursday night in June. He said Berger was going crazy when he returned to pick him up.

READ: Family friend: Father witnessed son being tased after incident at Oz Fitness

“I ran from Oz Fitness got about here and yelled, “I'm his father. He's not dangerous. I have a mental health number, please stop,’” said Bill Berger.

Bill Berger said no one would listen to him.

Witnesses said Berger was out of control and tried to attack one of the deputies with the deputy’s own taser. Berger was pronounced brain dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

READ: Suspect grabbed deputy's taser outside Oz Fitness

Bill Berger said he wanted what happened to his son to spark change in the mental health system.

“I think the question we need to ask the legislature is ‘give us a number, how many need to die because you won't act?’” said Bill Berger.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the county had crisis intervention training.

The Berger family wanted the legislature to require more. The family was not only focused on Spokane, they wanted every single law enforcement agency to better their efforts. 

The Berger family started the Will Berger Foundation to raise awareness. The family said it provided them with a sense of purpose on dark days.

CONNECT: Will Berger Foundation

“The year of firsts is over. I hope the year of seconds is less painful,” said Bill Berger.