Eric Fuller, one of the shooting victims in last week’s Giffords shooting in Tucson has been arrested by Pima County deputies for disorderly conduct and making threats to another person who was making a comment about gun control. Apparently, witnesses present observed Fuller getting slowly agitated and eventually standing up with anger and taking an offense to some of the comments made during that public meeting. In short, this man, shot in the knee and the back by the shooter who emptied an extended magazine of 9 mm rounds into a crowd, killing six and wounding another thirteen, was visibly angry and upset with the speculation by many to be in need of a mental health assessment before he goes to trial.
Politico News reported this “63 year old veteran had campaigned for Giffords during her reelection and was at the supermarket for her Congress on Your Corner event” when shot by the 22 year old man identified as Jared Loughner, a Tucson resident. Politico News goes on to report Fuller stated “I was in shock, and I just wandered out into the parking lot,” Fuller recalled in the Democracy NOW interview. “And a woman was pushing a cart full of groceries out there. And I said to her, ‘˜I’ve been shot.’ And she just looked at me like I was crazy.” “I hadn’t ever had any kind of trauma experience at that level before,” he told CBS. “And I didn’t know ‘” I didn’t quite know how to react. I felt like we were in for more, and possibly to be given a coup de grace by this madman that was so vigorously exercising his Second Amendment rights.” (1)
So how do we approach this matter and what does the criminal justice system in Arizona provide for Mr. Fuller as a criminal to be or a victim that has been victimized once more by someone else’s acts within a unpredictable society that currently exists within Arizona. Let us hope there are individuals who will seek the depth of this problem we have in Arizona and allow the mental health assessment take place with the kind of spirit the law intended to provide and protect those who are impacted by psychological trauma and how they handle the aftermath of such a traumatic event. One must wonder if those comments made during the town hall meeting triggered a reaction that resulted in the alleged violent outburst of Mr. Fuller when he took the person’s picture and said to him “You are a dead man.”
The trauma institute states “Trauma is an everyday event, natural and widespread. Trauma impacts victims of “ordinary” events such as traffic accidents, falls, illnesses, sudden losses and abuse as well as “extraordinary” events such as natural disasters, violence, torture, terrorist attacks and war, labor camps and holocausts. The majority of people exposed to traumatic events do not suffer from long-term emotional damage. However, twenty percent of the population exposed to trauma will develop PTSD, and a higher percentage will feel some traumatic effect on their lives. (2)
The institute goes on to explain that “The impact from experiencing a traumatic event can be pervasive and destructive to individual lives, families, communities and nations. The cost of unresolved trauma to society is incalculable. Trauma has been correlated to physical and mental illness; learning disabilities; addictions; deviant or aggressive behavior; polarization of belief systems; racial, ethnic and religious intolerance and violence in individuals, in schools and communities, between groups and between nations.” (2)
I suspect that Mr. Fuller was interviewed regarding the shooting and as a result of these interviews, whether reenactment or just recalling the facts as he remembered them this may have compounded the trauma already established from the original act. Backing up this speculation is the view of the trauma institute which says “Furthermore, traumatic reenactment or repetition is one of the most dangerous and daunting aspects of trauma. It creates a downward spiral of traumatic symptoms, gaining a life of its own called metaphorically “the trauma vortex”. When their trauma is not healed, people will likely continue to repeat or reenact their traumatic experience in some way or another. The “trauma vortex” has a magnetic pull and is contagious Society should take the time and realize that before they pass judgment on this man of what he has said and how he feels there are logical explanations why he had done so as a victim of the shooting incident as well as the societal influences around him. (2)
Treating trauma can prevent further incidents such as this and is most certainly one of the options to be taken by the criminal justice system at this time. The cost should be passed to the patient as the accountability and the responsibility to maintain self control and composure is still up to the person or persons involved in this tragic shooting. However, the awareness that trauma is treatable can be a most positive force for society to recover from such symptoms. Society should remember that trauma is a psycho-biological event. As it impacts the body, at the level of the autonomic nervous system, it needs to be treated at that level as well. Cutting-edge short-term techniques have been developed. They treat psychological trauma effectively, as well as help develop resiliency to better cope with trauma and facilitate prevention (2)
Arizona Revised Statutes – Title 36 Public Health and Safety – Section 36-533 Petition for treatment – 36-533 – Petition for treatment – A. The petition for court-ordered treatment shall allege: 1.That the patient is in need of a period of treatment because the patient, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to self or to others, is persistently or acutely disabled or is gravely disabled. 2. The treatment alternatives which are appropriate or available. 3. That the patient is unwilling to accept or incapable of accepting treatment voluntarily.
B. The petition shall be accompanied by the affidavits of the two physicians who conducted the examinations during the evaluation period and by the affidavit of the applicant for the evaluation, if any. The affidavits of the physicians shall describe in detail the behavior which indicates that the person, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to self or to others, is persistently or acutely disabled or is gravely disabled and shall be based upon the physician’s examination of the patient and the physician’s study of information about the patient. A summary of the facts which support the allegations of the petition shall be included.
C. The petition shall request the court to issue an order requiring the person to undergo a period of treatment.
D. In cases of grave disability the petition shall also include: 1. A statement that in the opinion of the petitioner the gravely disabled person does or does not require guardianship or conservatorship, or both, under the provisions of title 14 and the reasons on which the statement is based. 2. A request that the court order an independent investigation and report for the court if in the opinion of the petitioner the person does require guardianship or conservatorship, or both. 3. A statement that in the opinion of the petitioner the gravely disabled person does or does not require temporary guardianship or conservatorship, or both, and the reasons on which the statement is based. 4. A request that the court appoint a temporary guardian or conservator, or both, if in the opinion of the petitioner the person does require temporary guardianship or conservatorship, or both.
E. A copy of the petition in cases of grave disability shall be mailed to the public fiduciary in the county of the patient’s residence or in which the patient was found before evaluation and to any person nominated as guardian or conservator.
F. A copy of all petitions shall be mailed to the superintendent of the Arizona state hospital