Investigating impact of war on Dallas killer's mental health

Micah Xavier Johnson (Facebook)
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Micah Johnson made his motive clear: Kill white officers in defense of fellow African Americans who have died at the hands of police.

But clinical experts are already looking beyond societal rage.

They say it's crucial that we explore a possible link between his military experience and the inability for some veterans to mentally return from war.

Last Thursday night, downtown Dallas became a battlefield. An unstable former Army veteran waging war with police. Unmistakable was his tactical and methodical assault on his targets.

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Out-strategizing and out-maneuvering the uniformed enemy. It took a battalion and a bomb to defeat him.

And while some see 25-year-old Micah Johnson of Mesquite as a deranged vigilante, those who work with veterans and are familiar with post-traumatic stress, see a war on the homefront that is being lost.

Marianne Horne is a professional counselor who has worked with veterans for years.

"They are all very intelligent people. They've been very well trained to do their job,” she said. “They know how to do their job, which is to take out the enemy.”

Horne said that, while the vast majority of traumatized vets are stable, a few here in Texas stand out.

Just six weeks ago in Houston, Texas, Dionisio Garza III, an Army vet with seven tours of duty behind him, went on a shooting rampage, targeting police. One civilian was killed. Six others were wounded. The shooter was killed by police.

Two years ago, in Fort Hood, Texas: Ivan Lopez, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, went on a shooting spree, killing three, wounding 14 before taking his own life.

Three years ago, at a shooting range near Glen Rose, Eddie Ray Routh, a former Marine diagnosed with PTSD, shot and kills war hero Chris Kyle, just as Kyle was trying to help the disturbed vet.

Horne says the commonality of four of their backgrounds and aggression is no coincidence.

"When they go into the military the military tears them down and breaks them apart and then rebuilds them into soldiers, killing machines,” said Horne. “If they don't get the right kind of treatment, the right kind of counseling they are going to have problems.”

Mindy Moser, of We Six C, not only counsels vets, she trains police officers on how to engage when they encounter disturbed veterans out on the streets.

"I have dealt with so many people who have been triggered and they think they are in Afghanistan and their feet are in Dallas, Texas,” she said.

Horne said the troubling fact is, interaction with police is how most veterans get their first access to mental health care.

While we don't know for sure, Moser says Micah Johnson likely never cried out for help, but signs were probably there he needed it.

"Where did we miss him, where did we miss that intervention?” asks Moser. “At what point did his path cross with the right people that they didn't know what to ask or how to act?"

Would counseling have corrected his deadly course? It's a matter than can now only be debated. But those who have seen intervention succeed say continued care for vets is a call to duty for us all.

"We've got to be there for these men and women,” said Horne. “We've sent them overseas to do a job. They've done it well and they come back home and when they don't have the right kind of reintegration care then they are going to have problems."

The following is a list of veteran care and counseling contacts. If you know of a vet who could use any degree of intervention, please direct them or help them make contact with professional assistance.

  • Stay The Course Veteran Services
  • Metrocare Services
  • #22Kill
  • Stay The Course Veteran Services
  • Honor Courage Commitment, Inc.
  • Dallas/Tarrant County MHMR
  • VA North Texas Health Care System