Lawyer blames dad slaying on medication — (South of Boston)

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South of Boston

August 5, 2005

By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer

Walter R. Bishop of Brockton lived on the right side of the law for 60 years, serving in the U.S. Army, working as a security guard and running a sandwich shop.

Then he was arrested Tuesday, charged with gunning down a 27-year-old man holding a baby outside a Brockton employment agency in a suspected road rage case.

According to court records, Bishop told police he shot Sandro Andrade because the younger man had sworn at him a few minutes earlier during a traffic confrontation.

“I made up my mind right there, I had to do something,” Bishop told police, according to court papers.

But his attorney, Kevin Reddington, is raising a different potential reason – Bishop’s use of Paxil and other antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

It is the latest in a growing number of cases throughout the country where SSRIs are being blamed for murder, suicide and other aggressive behavior.

The pharmaceutical companies insist the drugs are safe – that the problem rests with the individual, not the drugs doctors are prescribing to help them.

There has been no scientific evidence linking the drugs to aggressive behavior, suicide or homicides, said Mary Anne Rhyne, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Paxil.

“There are many causes and factors that lead to causes of aggression,” Rhyne said.

But critics of the drugs insist their side effects are more widespread than people realize and noted the Federal Drug Administration ordered warnings that the antidepressants can cause irritability and hostility.

Since 2003, there have been at least 600 criminal cases where the suspect was taking antidepressants, raising concerns the drugs are causing more problems than they are solving, said Rosie Meysenburg, assistant national director of the Prozac Survivors Support Group.

“There are two lines of thought on this – one is people go to the doctor because they are stressed or sad,” she said. “There is another group of doctors who think … this is just a drug-induced insanity.”

Bonnie Leitsch, national director of the group, said she hears reports two to three times a week of aggressive behavior, including murders and suicides, by those using the drugs.

“They are mind-altering. I call them the drugs from hell,” Leitsch said.

Joseph P. Glenmullen, author of “Prozac Backlash” and “The Antidepressant Solution,” said the drugs wind up over-stimulating some people to such a degree that they can cause anything from insomnia to aggressive behavior.

“They can be so over-stimulated that it causes some people to go over the top,” said Glenmullen, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Bishop’s attorney said he is examining the use of the antidepressants in his client’s case.

“It is a textbook case,” Reddington said. “This is a 60-year-old who has never done anything wrong in his life and he is recently on these drugs and then reacts in that fashion. It is textbook.”

Bishop told police he was driving his wife to the Campello MBTA station to catch a 7:37 a.m. train on Tuesday when he saw a red SUV backing down the street toward him on East Market Street, according to court papers.

Bishop said he slammed on his brakes, then the other driver backed up next to him and began swearing at him, the court papers noted. Bishop told police he was “furiously angry,” sped away, dropped his wife at the station, then saw the SUV on Main Street.

According to court papers, he told police the driver pulled over and got out. Bishop said he drove by, turned around in a parking lot and drove back, pulling a gun out of his pants pocket.

He opened fire and saw the driver “go down,” according to court papers.

Andrade, of Brockton, was stopping at the employment agency and was taking his 9-month-old daughter out of the SUV when the shots were fired.

He died at Brockton Hospital of multiple gunshot wounds. His daughter, splattered with his blood, was unharmed.

Reddington said antidepressants, such as those Bishop was taking, could explain the type of behavior prosecutors allege in the case.

Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said it is the defense attorney’s job to mount whatever case is possible for his or her client, and prosecutors expect that.

“We will be prepared for whatever issues arise,” Cruz said.

But his priority today is for Andrade’s family, and ensuring justice is done, he said.

“My role and concern now is for the victim and the family and the tragedy that is, and the further tragedy that could have been, had that child been hit,” Cruz said.