A report published yesterday by the Seattle Times about Pioneer Square murder suspect Donnell Jackson has an eerie similarity to so many other background profiles of alleged killers, including Virginia Tech shooter Seung-hui Cho and Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis.
Jackson was arrested and faces charges in the slaying of Troy Wolff and unprovoked attack on Kristin Ito one week ago. As the Seattle Times reported, Jackson’s family had worried about his mental health for some time. This does not mean he is guilty. That will be decided by due process.
Alexis and Cho are both dead. Cho was never tried, and Alexis never will be. Some suggest they simply "fell through the cracks." That's not quite accurate because all of them had previous run-ins with authorities.
Alexis, the gunman who died Monday after shooting a dozen people at the Navy Yard, told police in Rhode Island that he heard voices. And the cops, according to the Los Angeles Times, “told him to stay away from the people he thought were bothering him, but otherwise took no action.”
When Alexis was in trouble in Seattle back in 2004 for the malicious mischief charge of shooting out the tires of a construction worker, the Associated Press report recalled that he was ordered to not have firearms, and to stay away from the construction worker. He eventually walked because no charges were ever pursued.
KVI’s morning talk host John Carlson talked about these cases Friday morning. He alluded to the past of stabbing suspect Jackson, who did spend time in a California mental hospital in 2011 after being found incompetent to stand trial for setting a fire near a Sacramento freeway off ramp. But Jackson got out and was sentenced to a five-year probation. About six months ago, he came to Seattle.
After Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary last December, some attention was given to mental health services, though not near as much attention that gun control schemes received. Now, however, because a shooting happened in Washington, D.C. and attempts to demonize the gun fell apart because so many people got it wrong about the gun Alexis used, there is more serious talk about mental health. That appears to be a common denominator among mass killers.
Cho had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during his early teens, and in December 2005, he was declared mentally ill by the New River Valley Community Services Board, which said he was “in need of hospitalization.” The family knew of his problems, but he was not committed, and his name didn’t flag when he bought a gun and went through a background check.
The family of Café Racer shooter Ian Stawicki knew he had a history of mental issues, and at least two cases against him were dismissed, another similarity in many cases involving mentally disturbed killers or suspects.
Naveed Haq, the man now spending life in prison for the Seattle Jewish Federation shooting in 2006, also had “minor” brushes with the law that included indecent exposure, and his family told the Seattle Times about his “struggle with mental illness.” He passed at least two background checks at gun stores in the Tri-Cities area.
A federal law enforcement source told Examiner this week that if criminal charges had been pursued against Alexis in Seattle or Fort Worth in 2010 when he was involved in another gun-related incident, it is possible he would never had gotten the clearance necessary to get a job at the Navy Yard. Had he been convicted, he might not have been able to legally purchase the shotgun he used in Monday’s attack.
KVI’s Carlson is not the only person to suggest that it is time for a serious look at this country’s mental health treatment and services. That might yield more benefit than trying to pass stricter gun laws which would only affect law abiding citizens and likely not have prevented any of the mass shootings.
This week, Mayors Against Illegal Guns demonstrated for improved background checks, conveniently ignoring the fact that Aaron Alexis passed background checks, not only to get his gun last weekend, but also to get his job at the Navy Yard.
As Monday demonstrated, one does not require a so-called “assault weapon” to commit mayhem. As last Friday demonstrated, one does not even need to be shot in order to become a homicide victim.
However, a loose screw does seem to show up repeatedly in profiles of killers and murder suspects, and before reforming gun laws, now may be the time to look at reforming the mental health system.