Mental health issues shouldn’t be ignored

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Although the case of the man who was shot by Isle of Wight deputies last Friday took place in an area outside of this newspaper’s coverage, the matter raised is relevant to any community.

As we understand from other media sources, James “Jamie” William Wallace of Carrollton had a history of mental health issues going back to elementary school. This leads us to ask if the deputies knew that before going to his parents’ home where he lived. The officers had gone to serve warrants for multiple accounts of passing bad checks and getting money under false pretenses. Several of those charges had been filed by Jamie’s parents. He reportedly stole to support a drug habit.

We also wonder if the deputies knew that Jamie reportedly wasn’t a stranger to the court system, having been convicted many years ago in Isle of Wight Circuit Court and jailed on a few felonies.

We’re sympathetic to the parents for their loss, and our understanding also extends to the deputies. Reportedly, Jamie had threatened them with a knife and wouldn’t put it down after several commands. When he supposedly came at them with the weapon, one of the deputies fired his or her gun at close range in self-defense.

No matter how proper they were to act as they did – and we believe so far they were indeed within their rights – they have to live with that action.

Incidentally, Isle of Wight Sheriff Mark Marshall is to be commended for seeking an independent review of the case. This will be done in addition to an internal investigation. We trust his department’s growing reputation for transparency will continue.

This incident should serve as a wake-up call for people to not ignore the mental health issues of loved ones or friends.

Further, we suggest people in Western Tidewater look toward how mental health services could be expanded on or improved to help such patients. Ignoring such issues never makes them go away. And when they erupt violently, it’s too late to say, “We should have done something sooner.”