Grieving parents urge mental health changes

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Grieving parents whose son was shot and killed by the Seattle police SWAT team are taking action in hopes the death won't be in vain.

They're pushing for a new law helping to put the mentally ill into treatment before they hurt someone or someone hurts them.

Doug and Nancy Reuter came to the state legislature on behalf of their son, Joel, who was taken from them last July on Capitol Hill. He had displayed a handgun during a long standoff and then fired a shot through a window.

But the Reuter's don't blame the police.

"In fact, within one hour of Joel's death, we called our church and asked people to pray for the officers," Doug said.

They blame the mental health system that wouldn't commit Joel to a long-term treatment facility. Nancy testified at a state senate hearing that "Joel's death was needless and preventable."

The couple told state lawmakers their son's bipolar disorder was making him delusional and dangerous, but his state Designated Mental Health Professional said he didn't meet the criteria of posing "imminent danger."

Just one month earlier, Josh Guarino nearly met the same fate in Magnolia. He came at officers with a knife and was shot and wounded. His family had been trying to get him committed but were denied by the Designated Mental Health Professional.

The bill (SB 6513) they're calling "Joel's law" would give them a chance to appeal their case to a judge before their loved one or anyone else got hurt. To say "you don't understand," testified Guarino's mother Mary Jane Thomas.

"We don't want to be the next Sandy Hook. We don't want to be the next chaos and tragedy," Thomas said.

The fear by opponents is that this will cost too much with so many people locked in institutions at taxpayer expense.

Doug Reuter made this dire prediction, "If it doesn't pass I think the probability is very high that someone will die that shouldn't have"

An identical bill (HB 2725) received a hearing the state House on Monday.