When confrontations between cops and veterans turn deadly

By MARTIN KUZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2014

The fatal shooting of Issac Sims by Kansas City police on May 25 is one in a series of recent confrontations between military veterans and law enforcement to end in bloodshed. Many of the incidents have involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with mental disorders linked to their service, and in some cases officers have been attacked. The violent outcomes have prompted questions about delays in mental health care at Veterans Affairs hospitals and the tactics used by police for handling veterans in crisis.

July 15, 2014: Justin Davis was shot and killed by three police officers while holding a rifle as he sat in a car at a city park outside Memphis, Tenn. Police said Davis, who served two tours in Iraq with the Kentucky Army National Guard, made suicidal statements and pointed his rifle at officers. Family members said the 24-year-old veteran suffered from combat trauma and had sought care at a VA hospital shortly before the shooting.

July 4, 2014: An officer gunned down Icarus Randolph outside his home in Wichita, Kan., after police responded to calls from family members who reported he had mental health problems. Police claimed the former Marine, who deployed to Iraq in 2009, wielded a knife as he approached officers when one opened fire. Family members reported that Randolph, 26, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, and they called 911 on the day of the shooting to ask for help in transporting him to a hospital for treatment.

May 21, 2014: Cody Young was fatally shot after barricading himself in his apartment and firing one shotgun round at police in Tulsa, Okla. The Afghanistan War veteran, who deployed with the Oklahoma National Guard in 2011, had apparently suffered a flashback while watching a war movie and fired several rounds into a parked vehicle before police responded. Young, 25, sustained a traumatic brain injury during his tour, and though VA clinicians prescribed medications for his depression and PTSD, his symptoms had failed to improve.

March 21, 2014: Brian McLeod was killed by a sheriff’s deputy who responded to reports of a fight at his apartment in Tacoma, Wash. Authorities claimed the Army veteran, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, refused orders to lower his shotgun after pointing it at the deputy, who opened fire. Friends and family members said McLeod, 25, had wrestled with depression and combat trauma after his unit lost 21 soldiers during its tour, and alcohol and marijuana were found in his system following his death.

Feb. 11, 2014: In a case of “suicide by cop,” six sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Jed Zillmer when he brandished a gun following a high-speed chase in Spokane, Wash. The Afghanistan War veteran, who received a Purple Heart after he was shot in the foot in a firefight in 2011, had called 911 and told dispatchers he wanted police to kill him. Zillmer, 23, had been plagued by combat trauma, and the Army had recently denied his claim for supplemental disability benefits.

Sept. 5, 2013: Denis Reynoso was fatally shot in his home in a Boston suburb after a confrontation with police officers who responded to reports of a man “behaving irrationally.” The Iraq War veteran, who deployed with the Army National Guard in 2007, grabbed one officer’s gun and fired at him and a second officer, missing both, before a third patrolman shot Reynoso. The father of two children, Reynoso, 29, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

March 4, 2013: Two officers shot and killed Santiago Cisneros after he fired at them on the top level of a parking garage in Portland, Ore. Police said the Army veteran, who served in Iraq in 2003, ambushed the officers, shooting multiple shotgun rounds at them. Cisneros, 32, had attempted suicide soon after his tour, and he was later hospitalized for six months and prescribed medications to cope with PTSD and depression.