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Monument smashing suspect has history of mental illness


    Personnel from the Secretary of State’s office inspect the damage to the new Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, after someone crashed into it with a vehicle, less than 24 hours after the privately funded monument was installed on the Capitol grounds.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. >> A man who police say intentionally smashed his car into a Ten Commandments monument outside a state Capitol for the second time in recent years has a long history of mental illness, and experts say his case underscores the lack of options available to those who need mental help.

An Arkansas judge today set bond at $100,000 for Michael Tate Reed, who appeared via video from the Pulaski County jail. Reed made multiple outbursts and told public defender Peggy Egan he didn’t need her services, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Reed, 32, was arrested on preliminary charges of first-degree criminal mischief, criminal trespass and defacing an object of public respect after authorities say he destroyed Arkansas’ monument less than 24 hours after it was erected. He was also arrested in 2014 for destroying Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments statue, but was never charged in that incident.

Egan told the judge that there may be “mental health concerns,” the newspaper reported. Reed’s relatives say he has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a chronic mental health condition characterized by hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking and manic behavior.

Reed’s sister, Mindy Poor, said her brother’s mental health has deteriorated in recent weeks after he moved into his own apartment in Van Buren, Arkansas, and stopped taking his medication.

“He can convince people he’s perfectly fine, and he’s not,” Poor told The Associated Press. “When stuff like this happens, what are you supposed to do? We can’t physically force a man more than twice our size to take medication when he’s convinced he doesn’t need it.”

Poor said Reed’s delusions often include a hyperawareness of religious issues, and Reed made reference to religious themes in several videos posted to his Facebook account shortly before Arkansas’ Ten Commandments monument was toppled.

In one video, Reed describes himself as a follower of Jesus Christ but says he opposes any attempt to violate the separation of church and state.

Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Chris Powell has said officials believe a Facebook Live video posted on Reed’s account that showed the destruction is authentic. In that video, a driver is heard growling, “Oh my goodness. Freedom!” before accelerating into the monument. The vehicle’s speedometer is last shown at 21 mph (33 kph) and then a collision can be heard.

After the Oklahoma incident, prosecutors were able to get Reed committed into a state facility and stabilized before his family moved him to Arkansas for treatment, said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. Prater said he doesn’t second-guess his decision to not pursue criminal charges.

“I don’t, because it was the only viable option we had, other than incarcerating him in the Oklahoma County Jail awaiting disposition of a criminal case, which I don’t think would be the appropriate way of handling it,” Prater said.

Advocates say Reed’s case highlights a problem they’ve long been trying to solve with Arkansas’ mental health and criminal justice systems. Gov. Asa Hutchinson set aside $5 million to open “crisis stabilization units” where the mentally ill can be treated rather than be booked into jail, a move advocates say could help alleviate the problem.

“You can’t force them into treatment unless they’re a danger to themselves or others,” said Dianne Skaggs, executive director of the Mental Health Council of Arkansas, which represents the state’s community mental health centers. “This guy, I think, was off the radar.”

Oklahoma opened three crisis units after funding was pushed by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2012, but the head of Oklahoma’s mental health agency says the state still only has resources to serve fewer than one-quarter of those who need services.

“We desperately need an expansion of mental health and substance abuse services,” said Terri White, director of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “In order to get services, you have to be one of the most ill … and tragically, it’s often in the back of a police car instead of the inside of a medical facility.”

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