The more we learn about the deranged gunman who set foot in a Texas church and gunned down 26 people, wounding 20 more, the more we see a portrait of the exact type of man no one wants to be around. Convicted of abusing his wife and child by an Air Force court-martial, he should have been barred from ever owning a firearm.
The latest news, that he apparently escaped from a mental health facility in 2012, just adds a new layer to the complex riddle that is the shooting.
The gunman in the worst mass killing in Texas history escaped from a mental health institution in New Mexico, threatened his Air Force chain of command while facing military charges of domestic violence, and “had already been caught sneaking firearms onto” an air base, according to a 2012 El Paso Police Department report obtained by WFAA.
El Paso police arrested [the shooter] on June 7, 2012, at a Greyhound bus station a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Mexico border after he escaped the Peak Behavioral Health Services facility about 12 miles away in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, according to the police report.
At the time, [he] was facing a court martial on charges that he beat his wife and her son at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico about 100 miles north of El Paso. It’s unclear when [the killer] was confined to the mental health facility, which is near Sunland Park, New Mexico.
Sunland Park police officers, who were looking for [him] after his escape, told El Paso police officers that [the shooter] “suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run” from the mental hospital and “take a bus out of state,” according to the El Paso police report.
This information meshes closely with comments by President Trump calling the Texas tragedy a “mental health” issue, not a gun issue. While it’s uncertain as to whether the president had access to this information prior to making his comments while visiting Japan on a state visit, this new wrinkle certainly justifies the comments either way.
The killer was soon apprehended and presumably returned to the facility.
With each bit of news we learn about this individual, the portrait of a deeply disturbed, violent individual becomes more and more clear. The kind of man that you wouldn’t want to invite into your family.
The man was clearly unhinged and the proverbial ticking timebomb waiting to explode. When he did, the members of his mother-in-law’s church appear to have been the one to pay the price.
However, it also clearly points out that one issue that needs to be addressed if we want to curb these kinds of horrible attack is our mental health system. The Texas gunman was a deeply disturbed, violent man who clearly needed serious help. Would he have accepted it? Perhaps not. After all, he’d already run away from one facility, but we can see that he needed it one way or another.
For all the pontification on gun control taking place on television, in the pages of newspapers, and on social media, there are deeper issues at work that really need to be addressed if we want to save lives more than score political points. We need to stop violence and stop focusing on the tool.