GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Last week, when Justin White saw his brother for the last time, he gave him a cigarette. To him, his brother seemed a little “off,” but that wasn’t anything unusual.
“He always seems off,” he said.
A week later, the brother he called “Bobby” was dead. Robert Tyler White, 32, was killed by police outside Walnut Park Elementary School in Gadsden Thursday morning. In the moments before his death, White had tried to get inside vehicles and the school building, police claim.
Etowah County Sheriff Jonathan Horton said that a school resource officer who also works for Rainbow City police responded to the situation and called for assistance from other law enforcement. A physical altercation ensued, police said, and the man was shot and killed. The resource officer, officials said, received minor injuries.
Justin said his brother suffered from depression and other mental health problems.
“He’s got some serious mental issues,” he said.
Justin, who’s a year and nine days younger, than his brother, said he learned about the incident on the news. He called a friend for more information and found out that it had been his brother who was shot and killed by police.
“He told me my brother went by there f***** up,” he said. “And he walked up that way toward the school.”
Justin said he doesn’t believe that Robert Tyler White would try to harm children.
“He wasn’t some psycho trying to hurt kids,” the brother said. “He was just a messed up individual. He had problems. But he wouldn’t hurt no kids.”
White said he believes his brother engaged in what he called a “suicide by cop.”
“I think he was trying to get himself killed,” he said.
Bobby grew up in Gadsden, Justin said, and even attended Walnut Park Elementary as a child. The two never really had a close relationship.
“He’s been depressed, and I know he was suicidal,” he said. “But he wouldn’t ever hurt nobody else.”
Justin said that his brother had been a garbage man in North Carolina for eight years before coming back to Gadsden. Justin doesn’t think his brother ever got the mental health help he needed.
“Not really,” he said. “But I thought he was doing good.”
Still, Justin said yes — he was surprised when he found out his brother had been involved in the incident at the elementary school.
“But at the same time, no, because he’s a hot head, he said.
Now, with his brother gone, Justin White feels numb.
“I’ve lost so many people in the last few years,” he said. “I’m not in good shape myself.”
Justin said that what happened to his brother was a tragedy. Their mother sat in the living room listening on as he spoke with CBS 42. She wasn’t doing well, Justin said. She couldn’t believe what had happened.
“He was just a sick person, and he was at the wrong place,” Justin said.