Friday, December 29, 2006

James E. Dean -- Update on a Tragedy

Today brought more information about the tragic death of James E. Dean, the young reservist who, upon being ordered to Iraq after having been severely traumatized by his 18 months of service in Afghanistan, became despondent and committed suicide by cop a few days ago. (see first post on this story)

Here's the story: Distant War May Have Claimed Maryland Soldier

I don't know why the headline says the way "may" have claimed this young man. Dean had already fought in one war, serving 12 months as a sergeant, leading a small infantry unit on the front lines in Afghanistan. Army records show that he was an excellent soldier, and he had a fistful of awards to prove it: for service in defense of the nation, good conduct and outstanding marksmanship with rifles and grenades. He was such a good soldier, in fact, an Army spokesman said, that the military needed him back just three weeks after his first Christmas with his wife.

He couldn't stomach the thought. His post-traumatic stress disorder, which was diagnosed shortly after he returned from Afghanistan, became worse immediately after he received the letter -- and so did his drinking and his rages, family members said. He would break down in front of his wife, telling her over and over that nobody knew what it had been like.

Apparently Mr. Dean was diagnosed with PTSD and has been under treatment for it for some time. Why was someone in his fragile emotional state being recalled to duty? What provisions are there in the military to excuse from duty those with a documented history of PTSD? Are there any at all?

This poor man had married, started a job, and was working his way back from his crippling depression when the rug was pulled out from him and he was staring back into the abyss out of which he'd just crawled. Heartbreaking.

There was some criticism of the way the police handled the situation, apparently following their protocol of isolating the "suspect" and seeking to have him have contact with only their negotiator. Mr. Dean's cell phone service was apparently cut off and he was not able to have contact with family members with whom he wanted to talk. I understand that this is part of the standoff protocol, but it does make one consider whether things would have gone so completely downhill if he had been allowed to talk to someone whom he trusted instead of a stranger, a representative of state power. The article says he shot at three police cruisers and then pointed his weapon at an officer, and this was the reason for the trooper's decision to kill him. Where a man has lost all hope, and all connection with those who might give him hope, he just may take any action necessary to achieve his self-destructive purpose. The trooper's duty was to see to it that his colleagues were not injured or killed by someone who was clearly desperate.


Hopelessly Depressed said...


You are correct…it appears that the rug was pulled out from him just as he was staring back into the abyss out of which he'd just crawled. Heartbreaking to say the least.

This is a tragic, but not isolated story. It is my contention that the military is such a flawed bureaucracy that it is unable to efficiently and effectively react when dealing with mental health issues.

I personally have lost all faith in the military…I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women who serve but no faith in the military itself...and it sad because I used to be one of its biggest advocates.


Anonymous said...

I'm a member of Jamie's family and we are still waiting for the investigation reports from the County and State Police Depts. So is our State's Attorney. The police were inside armored vehicles and their sniper was several hundred yards away from the house where Jamie was. Inside the house. No police coming to the door, no police walking/standing around the house - just sitting and waiting. And from several hundred yards away, inside Jamie's uncle's garage was the sniper and said that he "appeared to raise his gun" so he shot him inside his father's house, through a storm door that had no glass left in it. All but two of the windows were full of holes - holes from tear gas canisters. Neither the County or State Police have told the family who was in charge of this mess. Interesting isn't it? The family asked for someone from the Army be called in - no. The family minister volunteered to go to the house and talk to Jamie - no. "But I'm a priest, this is my job. I do this of my own free will and no one will hold the authorities responsible - this is my pastoral duty - no.
The family was told that they would be moved to a "communication station" where they would be able to speak to him - a lie. The family was asked to record messages to him - he was never given the opportunity to hear them.
His aunt was told after Jamie was shot that "we didn't mess up too much". I pray he meant the house, which by the way had seventy three tear gas canisters shot into it. His grandmother was told to "shut up granny or we'll lock you up". His aunt phone rang. A police officer said "I told you no phones", took the phone from the aunt and gave it back to her in three pieces. After the murder took place his mother asked why couldn't they have waited longer. The answer she received should make your blood run cold. "Don't you think that fourteen hours is long enough". His military medical records indicate his diagnosis of PTSD, I suppose the military's computers don't have the ability to red flag a veteran who's mental stability is at risk - no, they just send out orders to report on Jan. 14th and be ready to deploy.
Yes, Jamie owned alot of what happened that night, but in our hearts we know that had the police backed off and not treated the situation like they were fighting Rambo, the worst that could have happened was that Jamie would have shot himself. I believe that we could understand that far more than we can understand why he was shot. Sorry to ramble but we knew him, we knew how to talk him down from these nightmares but were not allowed even to try. Again, what is the worst thing that could have happened? See above.