Parents with a mentally ill son may have averted a mass shooting by turning their son into the police, according to a recent report by CBS. The incident has once again brought mental health into the spotlight, showing the grisly flaws of the system, and again leaving more unanswered questions than actual solutions.
Bill and Tricia Lammers of Bolivar, Missouri notified authorities last November after Tricia found a receipt for a shotgun in in her son’s pants pocket while doing his laundry. She said the receipt, which came from Wal-Mart, was marked “Shotgun $865” though Bill told Tricia “That’s not a shotgun. That’s an assault weapon. That’s an AR-15.”
The couple felt that their 20-year-old son, Blaec, was mentally unstable and with a violent history, not a safe candidate for purchasing a gun, no matter what type it actually was. Not knowing his intentions, they contacted the police to alert them of what they felt was a potentially dangerous situation. Police in the small city of just over 10,000 were able to investigate the situation, eventually getting Blaec to admit that he was plotting a mass shooting spree at a screening of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2.
However, that wasn’t the first time the police had come in contact with Blaec. He was detained in 2009 after police found him in a Wal-Mart holding a large butcher knife and wearing a Halloween mask. According to the boy’s father, “What he told us was he had picked out someone. He was going to watch them go into the back room, follow them back there, and hopefully the police would get him and shoot him first before he did anything.” Blaec told his father that he had been inspired by the movie “Halloween” which “got him to thinking.”
And what’s more is that the Wal-Mart where Blaec purchased the firearm is the same Wal-Mart where the “Halloween” incident occurred. Although there are conflicting reports about what type of guns Blaec actually purchased – some sources say it was a shotgun, while others indicate it was two AR-15’s – the fact remains that a mentally unstable man with a history of violence was easily able to purchase firearms.
Even prior to the “Halloween” incident, Blaec had already been committed to a mental facility twice for threats of violence. In fact, by the time he was taken into police custody last November for the alleged movie theater plot, Blaec had been in and out of mental health hospitals a total of seven times. However, each time he was released after only four days; each time with a different doctor, a different diagnose, and a different medication.
This always left his parents asking why. “’Why? Why? Did you fix him? Did you cure him?” they would say. But they never “fixed” him; they never “cured” him. In fact, his parents have racked up over $50,000 worth of bills for doctors and various treatments in an effort to fix Blaec, who his mother said was “born different.” His parents say that by the time he turned 18 and was legally an adult, it became even harder to get him committed to a facility.
More importantly, to answer the question of why Blaec was continually released after only four days is because that is the legal limit for a person to be involuntarily committed without a court order. Since Blaec was never committed by a court order, he was never required to stay in a facility longer than four days and also because there was no court order, he was legally able to purchase the firearms. However, in the state of Missouri court-ordered psychiatric intervention may be initiated by any adult person. It is unknown if any such intervention was ever initiated with Blaec.
Despite Blaec’s violent past, which also includes threatening to put a pipe bomb under his high school teacher’s car and approaching his sister from behind with a knife, a court-ordered commitment failed to take place.
Blaec is now in jail on three felony charges, including making a terroristic threat and armed criminal action. He faces life in prison, but his parents worry that although he will be removed from society where he is unable to harm anyone, he won’t get the help that he so desperately needs, and it’s certainly not the life that he – or his parents – had hoped for.
At a news conference last year at the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Springfield, Tricia shared, “He wanted to be successful and be somebody. Just two weeks ago he asked me – both my kids still call me mommy – he said, ‘Mommy, do you think I’m a failure?’ I said, ‘No, Blaec, I don’t.’”
But what Blaec’s parents do say has failed is the system. “The system is broken. The mental health system. There’s no place to turn to. You take them to a hospital, and 96 hours later they’re home. Maybe on Prozac, but they’re not fixed,” his father explained.