Thursday, March 11, 2010

Could Pentagon shooter have been stopped?

The Pentagon, looking northeast with the Potom...Image via Wikipedia
Last Thursday's Pentagon shooter was actually raised in Hollister, California where he recently lived with his now grief-stricken parents.  36-year old John Patrick Bedell  also happened to be a promising electrical engineering student who'd already achieved a bachelor's degree, and was was attending graduate studies at San Jose State University until last fall.
So, what was it that triggered this soft-spoken, 6-foot tall, blond haired, intelligent man to drive to Washington, D.C., pull out a gun, and shoot two Pentagon entrance guards, wounding them both....before being shot dead by their retaliating bullets?
A few of his high school classmates said Bedell was smart, quiet, but kind of weird.  Neighbors in Hollister claim he was just a normal kind of guy, while professors praised him as one of the best circuit-design students at San Jose State.
"He was always on time, always prepared, and asked great questions that sparked further discussion", said professor David Parent, who never thought Bedell was capable of such a violent act, and nothing like the student he came to know so well!  "I still can't believe this is the J.P. I knew," he said.  "It's as though someone stole his identity".
As it happens, however, troubling signs foreshadowed Bedell for years...including severe bipolar depressive disorder, which competed with an addiction to marijuana, causing fits of anger leading to numerous scrapes with the law, including charges for resisting arrest.
Bedell was also arrested in 2007 at Bubb Elementary School in Mountain View after threatening a six-year old and his father with a 6-foot long stick, after they refused to to let him join  soccer practice!
That same year, Bedell was detained on a mental health hold, pleading no contest to exhibiting a deadly weapon other than a gun.  A month later his youngest brother signed a citizen's arrest form, claiming Bedell even assaulted him, after which Bedell served just 20-days of weekend work service.
Am I the only one noticing an obvious pattern  here?  Aren't these incidents at least the beginning signs of impending disaster for Bedell?  Wasn't he, in fact, a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode, needing a heck of a lot more than community service work to defuse him?
It's true his parents Oscar and Kaye Bedell did try for several years to get their son into therapy for his marijuana addiction, often seeking help from San Benito County Supervisor Reb Monaco, who was a family friend.
However, when that failed, shouldn't Bedell have at least received treatment for bipolar depression, which is a highly severe medical condition requiring aggressive therapy and  life-long medication?  It often afflicts extremely intelligent people, and is brought on by an imbalance of naturally occurring substances in the brain or spinal cord.
Instead of treating himself with marijuana, Bedell should have been on prescription anti-psychotic drugs like Benzadiazepine or lithium....which treat symptoms of hyperactivity, irritability, and hostility; the very symptoms which haunted him!
I say this because I've seen the way bipolar-ism has affected others, even people I know personally!  My cousin's wife has an IQ of 155, and used to suffer psychotic fits and convulsions after consuming even the smallest bit of alcohol.  She's fine now, but only after receiving alcohol treatment, intense therapy, and a strict medical re gamin for bipolar depression.
My own sister took it upon herself to seek life-long treatment for mood swings and chemical imbalances, which caused her to throw violent fits of rage when we were kids. I remember them well, and now she's fine.but only because she got the necessary help she needed? 
So did actor Robert Downey Jr. a bipolar depression sufferer also strongly addicted to cocaine, who literally traded in a bright career for a jail cell until finally getting the proper mental health care required to achieve total sobriety. Could John Patrick Bedell have gotten similar help?  Unfortunately, we will never know.
His story only got worse, with even more disturbing and revealing behavior, such as his recent anti-government threats and rants on 'You Tube' and other internet postings, where Bedell blasted the alleged miss-handling of a Marine colonel's death, and launched conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 disaster.
Just after New Years there were more red flags and danger signs.  Bedell's parents filed a missing persons report when he vanished eight days earlier following another fight with one of his brothers. Then they received a call from the Texas Highway Patrol claiming to be "disturbed" about Bedell's car being in "disarray" after being issued a speeding ticket.
When Bedell finally returned home on January 18th, his parents confronted him about a $600 purchase from a Sacramento shooting range, however, their son refused to tell them what he bought...thus arousing obvious worry and suspicion, but no action
A few weeks later Bedell banished himself to the road again, headed for the pentagon in D.C. with two 9-millimeter automatics, never to see his family again. Why couldn't something have been done earlier to get him the mental health care he so drastically needed?  He may very well have received some treatment, and I'm not about to say the Bedell family didn't try very hard!  What I am hinting, is that,  perhaps our entire community and government  approach to mental health care needs to improve, for the sakes of families like the Bedells!
Every day homeless people wander the streets, some of them half-brain dead. mumbling aloud to themselves. Could they have been helped? How many of us (so-called) upper and middle class citizens suffer from chronic depression, and why are there so many suicides, homicides, and rapes? 
The fact is, our prisons are filled the the brim, while seemingly normal, over-achieving, clean-cut folks John Patrick Bedell end up killing and/or dying violently....while we continue to wonder; could it all have been prevented?
I only hope our government and its communities learn from this, and find a way to improve preventative, mental health care, whereby....fewer families have to suffer tragedies like the Bedell's,  who last Friday issued a statement saying: "We are devastated as a family because, to the outside world this disaster is the first and only thing they will know of John Patrick.  To us he was a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, and cousin. We may never know why he made this terrible decision, but one thing is clear--his actions were caused by an illness, and not a defective character."
Thanks, and stay in touch at
Sincerely, PeteCam4

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