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I have a childhood friend who went off the rails. Seriously off the rails. He became delusional and paranoid. I cut him off from contact with my family, but didn’t report him to the police. Why would I? He hadn’t made any threats of violence or expressed an allegiance to a terrorist organization. If he had, I would have dropped the dime.

I understand people’s reluctance to report a dangerously mentally ill person or potential jihadi. Not only does it put you on law enforcement’s radar, it make you a target for assassination. But I don’t want to be that guy, the one who thinks “I knew he was going to do something horrible.”

The question is, what would it take for you to sound the alarm on a potential killer? Ever been in this situation?

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  1. What good would it do? The FBI knew about this guy, the Orlando guy and the Ft. Hood guy. The Sandy Hook guy, the Virginia tech guy, the Aurora theater guy and the Gabby Gifford guy had already been identified as dangerous by somebody or other. Your government refuses to protect you from dangerous people.

  2. When do you hold the disarmament community personally responsible for hanging your butt filets in the wind?

  3. Until our law enforcement agencies drop the PC culture, I would only notify those that I thought might be in danger…

  4. Not your fault RF. AND it’s pretty EZ nowadays to drop a dime on a miscreant. BTW in my Chicagoland area last week black folks called the local po-leece on their violent 17year old son. And theySHOT him to death. And now the family is suing the cop. What do expect to happen?

    • Not to mention the one on the news tonight where a lady called the cops with a complaint — and they went after HER!

      I think the time to call the cops on a killer is just before he reaches room temperature.

  5. I would report when someone had the means, motive, opportunity, and expressed intent to hurt the innocent. I would also continue to question them and confront them directly.

  6. I suppose this is akin to wrong-way drivers on limited-access divided highways. If you see a wrong-way driver barreling down an interstate highway, what would you do?

    The standard response is, “Get your car onto the shoulder as far as possible and call police.” Newsflash: that does not help the countless number of people who will be on a deadly collision course with that wrong-way driver while police try to find a way to stop him/her.

    I am nearly certain that I would park my car sideways across both lanes in an attempt to stop the wrong-way driver before they kill someone. If they are so messed up that they plow into my car, that is a reasonable consequence for driving so stoned … and a reasonable course of action to prevent the certain death of an innocent family driving the right way.

    I would apply the same standard to a person with apparent mental illness. I would not do anything until they demonstrated that they were on a collision course with innocent victims. At that point, in a proverbial sense, I would park my car sideways in front of them.

    Like it or not, we live in a free society. The only downside to our freedom: the occasional miscreant who abuses that freedom such as people with mental illness … and wrong-way drivers. No matter how much we suspect that someone is dangerous, we should not interfere with their lives until they have actually set-out on a deadly collision course with innocent victims.

  7. What is one supposed to do? If a person hasn’t made any threats, what are you going to report them for? Being weird? Crazy? Who defines that? The investigating police officer? Are people who are crazy going to be arrested? For what? There are people in this world who view firearm ownership as a sign of mental illness. What if they report you and fabricate something? The point I’m making is that without a threat being issued, there is very little that can be done to somebody who has “gone off the rails”. We still have due process in this country, and that has nothing to do with being “PC” or soft on crime.

  8. Police probably wouldn’t even bother to investigate someone making run of the mill death threats. You could call and say that he’d been uttering trigger phrases about global warming denial or somesuch – they’d probably scramble the SWAT guys for that.

  9. Airport shooting was a fucked up mess. The shooter had actually gone to law enforcement for help to stop the voices. They puthim under a psych evaluation and let him go. Part of responsibility for this mess falls on whoever let himgo

    • We stopped institutionalizing people a long time ago. Now we ‘treat’ them outpatient. This happened because people kept suing when they were held against their will and it became a liability.

      Well, maybe it should be a liability when you release someone and say “they’re fine to walk around” and they go and ill a bunch of people.

      I know we will soon hear about how we need to extend laws that prohibit guns to mentally ill but this is a perfect example of how someone shouldn’t have been free at all.

  10. Question of the Day: When Would You Call the Cops on A Potential Killer?

    When they’re dead on the floor and I need someone to clean up the mess.

  11. It does little or no good.

    I have personal experience with a psychotic delusional violent relative that has not only threatened to kill and destroy anyone that crosses his path, but has actually acted-out with violence and destruction upon his direct family members and strangers. The authorities have arrested him on numerous occasions and have always let him go free, with zero monitoring over and over again.

    The only remedy is to wait until he murders someone so he may be put away for a longer period of time. In the meantime, anyone that he knows, and anyone that bumps into him, better be ready to defend themselves at anytime with extreme prejudice

  12. Too many of you are putting the police between a rock and a hard place on this issue. In my experience as a cop, it was EXTREMELY difficult to take someone into custody, even for very obvious psychosis, unless you could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was a “danger to himself or others”, no matter how bizarre the behavior he exhibited. If the police can meet the “standard”, that’s no guarantee that the individual will be kept in confinement beyond the prescribed time that the psychiatrists are allowed to evaluate him, either. And please keep in mind that if the individual is diagnosed as sane, it’s not the police (or in the case of the FBI and Anchorage PD in Alaska) who are the ones who make the decision to turn the individual loose; it’s the doctors. Nor could the Anchorage PD refuse to return his firearm(s) to him once the headshrinkers had cut him loose.

    I don’t know what the answer is to this conundrum. It’s an anathema to Americans for the government to send someone to a secure mental health facility because we know all too well that the governments of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany did – involuntarily commit someone to an asylum only to inform the family six months later that the person had died there of unknown causes. We don’t want rules which can be abused – because surely they will be.

    • I call bullshit. Cops harass and arrest people everyday that they don’t like for whatever reason… such as disturbing the peace.

      What an asshat.

      • Weird, I don’t have a ‘disturbing the peace’ statute in my state. Why don’t you go home and let the adults talk?

      • ButtHurtz – Why do I get the feeling you just might be one of those people that a cop arrested for disturbing the peace? Maybe you attitude had something to do with that, hunh?

        Truth be told, I once heard a police dispatcher, a salty old veteran street cop, have the following radio conversation with a rookie who had absolutely no idea how to handle an individual who was blatantly psychotic but didn’t pass the “danger to himself or others” test:

        Dispatcher: “Is the subject disorderly?”
        Rookie: “No, just weird.”
        Dispatcher: “Well, is he gonna GET disorderly?”

    • Another example of the police being expected to do everything without being given the tools to do it (and maybe for the best). Where I am the police can force someone to go to the hospital for an evaluation IF there is probable cause that they are a threat to themselves and others but if the evidence isn’t airtight (i.e. them saying they are going to kill themselves… today) they’ll just be let right out the door as soon as they get there. Hospital doesn’t want em and only takes them when they have no choice because the liability for discharging them is too overwhelming.

      This is just another discussion we’re not really having and instead we’ll blame it on guns, the FBI, on ISIS, whatever… to avoid asking ourselves whether we would rather set up a system where people can be institutionalized for an unspecified time without having hurt anyone or whether we would rather have more freedom at the cost of danger that someone walking around might lose it.

      • ” . . . to avoid asking ourselves whether we would rather set up a system where people can be institutionalized for an unspecified time without having hurt anyone or whether we would rather have more freedom at the cost of danger that someone walking around might lose it. . .”

        Exactly. And, then, should we be satisfied with the choices a polarized, highly politicized state makes? We won’t like those choices and neither will the cops charged with enforcing them.

  13. Tough question. I don’t know. On the one hand you don’t want to be the “I knew something was off about that person” guy, On the other what are the chances that something meaningful will be done to actually help that person and make sure that they get the help they need to no longer be a threat to themselves or others? Not very high.

    This was part of the problem with James Holmes. People knew he was crazy and they knew he was likely dangerous but nothing he had done rose to a level where much could actually be done about it. Sure they could have had him put on a 72 hour psychiatric hold but at the end he would have literally been told what to say to get released and who had him locked up in the first place. Getting him mentally adjudicated in time to stop his crime by either getting him locked up in a psyche facility or placed on the NICS list was impossible. That’s why the university just hoped that he would go away and not do anything terrible.

  14. I think an implicit dilemma in the question of whether or not you should “report” someone to authorities, depends on how much faith you have in the state and those authorities to carry out its duties. If we could trust that the state, local or otherwise, wouldn’t use such a report to confiscate the guns of an innocent person (or even worse confiscate YOUR guns for having made the report) . . . but the fact is, we can’t. Do you really trust the Austin PD that much? I don’t.

    • Everyone is a “potential killer.” Not just police and soldiers. Stop trying to get the conversation turned to the misguided ax you grind.

      • Sorry, normal people don’t dispense violence for the government as a career choice.

        • “We sleep peaceably in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.” – George Orwell

        • Another mangled quote tossed out by historical dilettantes to justify their mindless statism.

          Anyone who read Orwell would know that he was a fervent supporter of armed resistance against government injustice. The real source of the quote is Edmund Burke, a supporter of the American revolution. The critique was against pacifism in the face of government injustice, whereas today’s police and military are the executors of injustice.

          I know of at least one baby who was roused from his peaceful sleep by an exploding flashbang next to his face… you can quote this.

  15. I worked with a guy for a couple of years, who was a borderline pathological liar. He would miss work, then come in with crazy excuses and I would fire him. The union kept bringing back until they caught him stealing. When they canned his ass, he made the typical “you will be sorry!” threats on his way out the door. We all laughed it off because he was a douche bag. Then he went home and killed his girlfriend, and after a standoff with the police killed himself. None of us who worked him would ever have thought he was capable of something like that.

  16. Only about 4% of murders in the US are from mass shootings. Why are we all anxious about the 4% and not the other 96%? That’s a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.

    If you want to drop a dime on someone or get them help before they murder someone, consider: Are they a gang banger? Did they finish high school? Have they been convicted of a violent crime? Especially in the last two years. Especially if the first conviction was before they turned 21. Are they a drug dealer? None of those factors are damning alone, but a few taken together are proven statistical factors in predicting who will kill. Hearing voices from the CIA to listen to ISIS is small potatoes by comparison.

    Also, per the OP, if you have a friend or family member who is off the rails, that person becoming a mass shooter may not be your first concern. About 20% of murder victims are killed by people they know. Keep in mind the San Bernadino shooters knew everyone they shot – they were co-workers. I think your biggest worry with an unhinged friend or family member is that at some point, they might want to kill you.

    • The points in your post are excellent. I just write to correct a transcription error you made–somewhere around 20-30% of victims are murdered by strangers, 70-80% by people they know.

  17. Going to the Gestapo would be the biggest mistake you will ever make. They do not care about you, they only care about thier job and that retirement check, one other thing, they get to drive around in a gas hog vehicle that looks real cool

  18. Mike Betts points out the futility of involving honest cops in ‘Pre-Crime Enforcement”, because there’s nothing they can legally do to a citizen who has broken no laws.

    Dishonest cops might provoke/escalate/kill the subject. It happens every month, maybe every week, if you look at the nation as a whole. Sometimes police doing a ‘welfare check’ for a person’s ‘own good’ end up killing him simply because he won’t let them in and tries to prevent their criminal entry into his home.

    So the answer to the question is simple for me:
    When I’m OK with the seeing the subject go down in a hail of police gunfire.

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