Authorities Sometimes Powerless, Even With Warning Signs

CHICAGO (CBS) — From Internet rantings to outbursts at college, there were signs accused Arizona gunman Jared Loughner was a troubled soul. But as CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, his case underscores the inability of authorities to take action often until it’s too late.

e Authorities Sometimes Powerless, Even With Warning Signs

This undated photo released by the Pima County Sheriff's Office shows shooting suspect Jared Loughner. (AP Photo/Pima County Sheriff's Dept. via The Arizona Republic)

Long before the Tucson shootings, signs surfaced gunman Loughner had behavioral issues. They led to five run-ins with college police since 2005 and his suspension from school.  Teachers say his outbursts showed signs of intense mistrust.

Nearly three years ago,  at Northern Illinois University,  a troubled former student named Steven Kazmierczak went on a random shooting spree killing six people. Since then, NIU has established systems for faculty to identify problem students, report them to counselors and police and ban them from campus. 

But spokespersons say there is little they can do beyond that.

In the absence of threatening behavior, which often surfaces too late,  there is little authorities and medical professionals can do to get someone with a potential mental disorder into treatment.

“It’s everyone’s constitutional right to act bizarrely if they so want to  — the issue is whether they threaten themselves or they threaten others, ” says Dr. William Scheftner, director of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center.

Drugs to help balance mental disorders have led states to reduce the costly amount of bed space available for the mentally ill. The number has dropped from 50,000 in Illinois to roughly 500 in the past four decades. 

“We have the ability at least to make the diagnosis. We don’t always have the ability to treat or to force someone into treatment, ” Scheftner  said.

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  • Sari Novack

    Authorities should never be powerless they have all they power. I’t”s us the parents that are fighting for power. I have a 13 year old beautiful girl that you would look at and never thing she is schziphrenic,but what do they look like? do they look like monsters. Should they get death row. That’s my baby girl and I fight everyday for special services. Seven months of fightingwith doctor recommendations but out of district school it was the problem. So many other problems like that.

    • Debbie Sirota

      As a parent of a daughter with Schizophrenia I have had to fight for services as well, but we got the services. It has been a very difficult journey, I feel the pain of all the stories coming forward. There need to to laws to engage people into treatment, whether they are adults or not.

  • Dawn Amora

    Mr. Kurtis as the daughter of a paranoid schizophrenic and adoptive mother of an non violent schizophrenic son I implore you to consider speaking about this topic as a tribute to your son, it is his legacy. Many “normal” families like ours continue to fight on a daily basis for understanding, help, these are our parents and children and as perfectly imperfect as they are we continue to love them ferociously and unequivocallly. We need you to be our voice of moderation.

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