A decorated Marine went to the VA in search of help… but he was turned away. Now the family is going after them, saying they could have prevented his death.
Post traumatic stress has been an ailment affecting the lives of veterans, police officers and every sector of emergency response. While there’s supposedly more attention being given to the crisis of mental health as of late, there are some circumstances that almost make that attention and support seem more like a façade.
An example of the effects that post traumatic stress has on those who suffer from it can be seen in the tragedy that unfolded in Gilbert, Arizona last year.
Maricopa County Detention Officer Joshua Kinnard was killed by police in a standoff after reports came in that a man was “acting erratically” on February 26, 2018.
That fateful night, police confronted Kinnard at his home, who then eventually produced a rifle and refused to comply with the officer’s orders to stand down, leading to a death that is often described as “suicide by cop”.
Nearly two years after that incident, the family of the slain officer is putting the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Regional Office on legal notice for $27.5 million. The reason being is that family believes this entire chain of events could have been prevented, had adequate care been delivered to a man who was in need of help.
Update: 37 yo Joshua Kinnard was a MCSO detention officer. He was shot and killed by Gilbert Police at his home. Kinnard was on medical leave, acting erratic, allegedly threatened Gilbert officers with a gun #Fox10Phoenix pic.twitter.com/iOltrluDGa
— Nicole Garcia Fox10 (@Fox10_NicoleG) February 27, 2018
A lawyer who is representing the Kinnard family told ABC 15 that they filed papers in court, asserting “grossly inadequate psychiatric and other care rendered by the Phoenix VA Health Care System to Corporal Joshua Kinnard, who died on February 26, 2018.”
Court documents that were obtained by ABC15 state Kinnard was a brave, dedicated, and decorated Marine who served from 1999 to 2003. Kinnard had served on the front lines of the Iraq War, where he undoubtedly witnessed traumatic instances of war-related loss and violence.
The attorney representing the family mentioned that Kinnard had returned from the war toting severe mental health problems; this was evidenced by his family members stating that Kinnard would make threats of suicide or even homicide at times. This prompted them at the time to seek help from the Phoenix VA.
Court documents stated that the VA practitioners had missed “obvious signs of imminent tragedy” while also having released Kinnard 60 hours into a 72-hour emergency psychiatric hold.
Maggie Jones, the fiancée of Kinnard at the time, had begged the VA staff to not release Kinnard early. Ten days later after being released, Kinnard had died after experiencing what is being described as a psychiatric episode, and “acted out knowing the police would be summoned” according to family attorney.
Lawyers say, “the Phoenix VA Health Care system is directly and solely responsible for Josh’s death.”
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The Phoenix VA had provided the following statement with regard to the pending lawsuit:
“VA does not typically comment on pending litigation, but thousands of Veterans in Arizona choose to be treated at the Phoenix VA Health Care System because they know we provide quality health care that improves their health and well-being. Phoenix VA operates one of the largest and most complex facilities in the nation and is seeing more patients than ever before more quickly than ever before. In addition, the facility compares favorably to nearby non-VA hospitals in many areas.”
Just this month we also reported on how one officer’s PTSD, who was one of the first responders to the infamous Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, almost led to them being fired.
Officer Alison Clarke was poised to be terminated from her position within the OPD based upon a move to made by Chief Orlando Rolón that eliminated permanent light duty for officers in need of it.
Prior to 2018, the Orlando Police Department used to have a policy that allowed injured officers to have positions in a “light duty” capacity, some indefinitely, in order to stay on the force to eventual retirement. Furthermore, Clarke was in the process of petitioning the pension board for a medical retirement stemming from PTSD, but the board had yet to make a decision within 180 days.
The agency’s union contract allows an employee applying for disability retirement 180 days to be approved by the pension board or face termination.
According to pension board chairman Jay Smith: “[Rolón has] made it his position that, regardless of the 180 days, he is going to terminate at that point. [With] past chiefs of police, that has not happened.”
Thankfully, in a joint statement made on Friday, the OPD and the City of Orlando said that they will “continue to work with” the officer, Alison Clarke, “on her request for a January hearing date regarding her request for a disability pension.”
A 1st Responder from the shooting at Pulse is being fired tomorrow. OPD had promised to wait for her PTSD recovery. Now they've changed their minds.
If you jumped into the line of fire & served bravely, you deserve to be lifted up. Not tossed aside.https://t.co/Z7BGL0yGB1
— Brandon Wolf (@bjoewolf) November 7, 2019
While Clarke’s case is seemingly turning in her favor, the events prior to alongside the tragic and possibly preventable loss of Joshua Kinnard show that there’s more work to be done by officials and leaders to help those suffering from post traumatic stress.
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