When Elliot Rodger brutally killed 6 people in California before taking his own life, images of Columbine and the Colorado movie theater shooting came to mind. These young and violent mass murders move invisible through our society with no criminal record, until they explode all their years of pent up frustration in one horrific moment. In that instance they take innocent men, women, and children with them, leaving devastated families and a shocked nation behind to attempt to pick up the pieces.
How can you stop them? How can you predict the unpredictable? These men, often loner youth, have not been in trouble with the law; there is no criminal history to fall back on. Yet in the blink of an eye, they are capable of unleashing horrors on society that will forever be remembered.
Scholars and psychologists have said that while past violence is a clue, most of these youths have never been violent or a real threat to themselves or anyone else prior to their rampages. Pinpointing who will be the next “mass murderer” may be difficult and virtually impossible, yet there are clues. Experts who study mass murders say that the majority of those who commit these horrific crimes are lonely and angry people who don’t fit into society or have many friends.
People who are closest to them may have more insight, however. Before the killings, Rodger’s mother became alarmed when she viewed frightening videos on YouTube. She even notified the authorities but they didn’t view Rodgers as an imminent threat at the time. Yet just one month later, his image would be plastered on newsreels and Internet sites as the man who committed one of the most horrific crimes of this decade.
Some believe that people like Elliot have mental illnesses that have either not been properly diagnosed or not been properly treated. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was not being properly treated for his obsessive compulsion disorder. He also suffered from a profound autism spectrum disorder and isolation.
Colorado is just one of a handful of states where people must pose an imminent danger to themselves or others before they can be committed involuntarily for psychiatric evaluation. California is one of those states as well. Yet in the case of shooters like Elliot Rodgers, the imminent danger exists only when blood has already been spilled.
Critics of this law believe that imminent danger is too restrictive and doesn’t allow mental health professionals and law enforcement officials the leverage they need to have someone evaluated properly. Opponents believe, however, that loosening those rules will only lead to abuses in civil liberties.
Since the Aurora movie theater shooting in July 2012, lawmakers in Colorado have been pushing to help prevent future attacks like this one. Currently, if law enforcement officials or health professionals believe that someone is a threat to themselves or others, they are allowed to hold that person for up to 72 hours for evaluation. Court certification is required for short-term holds of three months or longer.
Still, many in Colorado believe that the current law is failing citizens and families in the state. For example: the Aurora shooter, James Holmes, gave very clear signs of mental illness to his psychiatrist. She even notified the police, but they could not intervene because he was not “in imminent danger”.
While metal illness is not a predictor of violence, proper treatment and evaluation is necessary to prevent devastating outcomes, such as violence, suicide, or substance abuse. Learning to recognize the signs of metal illness is a key to helping those you love seek the treatment they need to live a functional and full life.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Denver, the Denver criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices can help. Contact us today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303)422-2297.