The 20-year-old man who walked into a Decatur elementary school yesterday had a history of mental illness and a criminal record according to his brother. Michael Brandon Hill was arrested after he fired several shots at police and briefly held several employees hostage at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center.
Timothy Hill, brother of the alleged shooter, told WSB TV (view parts one and two of the interview) that Michael Hill had a long history of mental illness. According to his brother, Hill was placed on Adderall, a drug commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), at the age of six. He had a history of behavioral problems in school starting at age 13.
Timothy Hill said that he was estranged from his brother, who had threatened to kill him in December 2012. The brothers had not been in contact since a court placed a restraining order on Michael Hill. Hill was charged with making terroristic threats in connection with the incident. The mug shot of Michael Hill was from March 2013 in connection with the death threat.
Hill said that his brother had also had several run-ins with Henry Co. police for a series of burglaries. In one case when Michael Hill was 16, Timothy said that he set fire to a house with eight people sleeping inside. According to Timothy Hill, Michael was never charged with any of these crimes by Henry Co. authorities.
Hill’s brother said that Michael Hill had a “long history of medical disorders including bipolar,” but that he was never given help. At one point, Michael Hill was on so many medications that it was “like a drugstore.”
Mental illness has been a common thread in many recent spree shootings. As Examiner reported last January, Adam Lanza, the Newtown school shooter had been diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. James Holmes, Colorado’s “Dark Knight” killer had seen three mental health professionals and reportedly mailed a package to his psychiatrist before his shooting spree in a Denver theater. Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, also had a long history of mental illness, marijuana use, stalking, and had been involuntarily committed. Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech killer, had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were posthumously diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses ranging from psychopathic tendencies to depression, paranoia and delusions.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, Dr. Harold Koplewicz wrote in the Huffington Post that 75 percent of psychiatric disorders appear by age 24 and that early intervention greatly improves the prognosis. Dr. Bill Knaus of the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy network points out that many mentally ill people are not aware of their illness and therefore will not voluntarily seek help. A particularly dangerous time seems to be when people stop taking their medication, especially if they do so abruptly and without supervision.
In spite of the fact that most shooting sprees occur in states with strict gun control laws, the legislative response after the Newtown murders primarily involved attempts to ban so-called “assault weapons.” President Obama issued series of Executive Orders aimed at increasing gun control and asked Congress to pass a new “assault weapons” ban. New York passed a strict new gun control law in January 2013. Illinois expanded background check requirements to include transactions between private citizens on August 18.
It is not currently known how Michael Brandon Hill obtained the guns that he used in his attack on the school. WSB reported that Hill was armed with “multiple guns, including an AK-47.”