Mental Health Had Him And Cut Him Loose

I have heard from people upset with my remarks concerning Michael Egan, the transient that was shot to death when he attacked another man in Portland. The gist of their complaint seems to be that Egan was mentally ill and that increased funding for mental health workers would have prevented his death.

Well, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Egan was mentally ill, but I see no evidence that increased funding for mental health workers would have made a difference.

Years before fatal shooting in Portland, suspect faced trauma of deadly violence

Multnomah County sheriff’s records show that a deputy picked Egan up from the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center on the morning of Nov. 26. The deputy drove him to the courthouse for an involuntary commitment hearing and was eventually released. Records for the hearing are confidential.

It appears that Mr. Egan was picked up and examined by Mental Health previous to this incident. He had an involuntary commitment hearing on Nov 26 and was released. It looks like Mental Health did their thing with him but the court did not go along. I’m not clear about what increased funding would have done to change this.

As for the other man, Stemle, his lawyer is claiming mental problems, but other than a period of homelessnes and a low tolerance for noisy neighbors, there is not any evidence of that. The reporter does try to make that an issue with this rather weak statement.

Police say Stemle had become a transient. Until February 2002, he lived in a low-income hotel in downtown Portland, refusing mental health help and repeatedly complaining about neighbors making noises to drive him crazy.

Living in a low income hotel is not evidence of mental problems, nor is complaining about noisy neighbors. I imagine that he made some sort of statement about the noisy neighbors driving him crazy, but that is a figure of speech and not particularly convincing as evidence of mental problems. As for him being turning down offers of mental health help, no one presents any evidence that he, in fact, needed any mental health help.

It seems that there is an unrealistic belief that every problem has a solution and that if we had the proper laws and programs incidents like this would never happen.