Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Friends of Brandon Reuter are still mystified by the turn of events"

As tales of the mentally ill involved in tragedies go, the story of Brandon Reuter is rather typical:

A young man from a nice, loving family with a very promising future, goes off to college, develops mental illness, he is not put in a locked hospital and his illness goes untreated. Then, fairly quickly, his life spirals out of control, he gets into very serious trouble and winds up dead.

In some cases, the mental patient kills someone else. In others he becomes a homeless, substance-abusing derelict. In more, he goes to prison for a senseless crime. Whichever the outcome, it's tragic and could have been avoided had the patient been treated for his mental illness.

Here is the account of Brandon Reuter in today's San Jose Mercury News:
At a morning news conference at the Redding Police Department, Police Chief Peter Hansen and Shasta County District Attorney Gerald Benito said they had concluded that the seven officers who fired their weapons at 20-year-old Brandon Reuter had acted within police department guidelines for using deadly force.

Reuter died after being hit approximately 14 times when the officers fired about 46 rounds, authorities said.

The youth was shot after a police dog pounced on him as he bolted from the bank heist, police said. Swinging wildly at the German shepherd, he suddenly pointed what appeared to be a 9 mm Beretta handgun, police said, at a group of approaching officers. Seconds later, Reuter died in a hail of bullets.

The weapon turned out to be a BB gun.

I don't blame the cops in this case. They were doing their jobs as best they could. I don't blame Mr. Reuter, who was out of his mind. I blame the fact that we closed our mental hospitals so people like Brandon no longer get the treatment they need.
The death of Reuter, who graduated near the top of his high school class two and a half years ago, was a blow for the town of Los Gatos, which has seen a string of tragedies involving young people in the past 13 months.

There probably are just as many dumb guys as smart guys who are afflicted with serious mental illness. However, it seems like kids who finish at the top of their classes and then have their lives spiral out of control make the news more often.
Friends of Brandon Reuter are still mystified by the turn of events. When he graduated from Los Gatos High in 2007, he received an award for academic excellence. But police reports and court records tell the tale of a life that gradually spun out of control since he entered his freshman year at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

His downward turn must have been a great mystery to those who knew him when he was in his right mind. However, I suspect all those who met him after high school knew he was ill:
Reuter had prior run-ins with the law as well as a history of mental illness, authorities said. Los Gatos police said he had been placed on a 72-hour mental hold after he became suicidal in November.

According to the police department of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Reuter was arrested by campus police in March 2008 on suspicion of stealing $30,000 in electronics — including 80 iPods valued at $22,200 — from the university bookstore. Reuter, then 18, was a freshman at the school. He was later convicted and sentenced to time served.

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