Mental health issues went undiagnosed with Navy Yard gunman

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by MARIE SAAVEDRA

Bio | Email | Follow: @MSaavedraTV

WFAA

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 10:26 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 5:48 PM

FORT WORTH — In the 24 hours since Melinda Downs learned that her old roommate Aaron Alexis was the Washington Navy Yard gunman, she's had time to think.

But she still can't understand it.

“Either you were an exceptional actor, or... who is this person?” Downs asked.

It seems Alexis kept his mental health a mystery to her and to many others. But to those who study patterns of the mentally ill, Alexis' storyline is frustratingly familiar.

We spoke with former State District Judge John Creuzot, who helped bring mental health courts to Dallas County.

“We don't have good systems for taking someone like him, and getting them referred into a system in Texas or other places,” Creuzot said.

He believes that's partially because Alexis hopped around.

“He tells people, 'I'm not mentally ill; I've never been diagnosed with a mental illness.' Then he goes to another state and does something else, he says the same thing... he just keeps on going,” Creuzot said.

And what about those past shootings and outbursts on Alexis' record? Creuzot thinks police could have done more.

“He could have been detained; he could have been examined," he said. "Once again, a missed opportunity."

Creuzot believes if officers had spent more time interviewing Alexis, they might have been able to sense whether he needed professional help.

“Now it appears that he wasn't necessarily arrested in any of these places, so it may not have shown up on a criminal background check,” Creuzot said. “But any of these instances were an opportunity to find out what was going on.”

Increased training for officers and mental health agencies also helps fill in the gaps, but according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas ranks last in the nation when it comes to mental health funding.

E-mail msaavedra@wfaa.com

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