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By Bob Wire, Citizen Journalist 5-14-07
At this moment there are four Missoula Police cars parked across the street. My neighbor, Dean, almost got away, but the cops pulled up just as he was backing his blue Jeep Cherokee out of the garage. As I watched through binoculars through my living room window, Dean got out of the Jeep, removed his jacket and put his arms in the air. One of the officers spoke to him briefly, then turned him around and placed handcuffs on his wrists. As two other cops entered the house, Dean was led away to one of the squad cars, and driven downtown.
I’d called 911 this morning when my wife and daughter told me they’d just seen Dean walking around his driveway with a rifle strapped to his back, binoculars in his hand. I quickly grabbed my own Nikons, but by the time I glassed him he’d retreated into the shadows of his garage. Moments later, he stepped back out onto the driveway, carrying not binoculars but a mug of coffee. And strapped across his back was a black assault rifle.
We’ve had run-ins with this idiot almost from the day we moved in four years ago. There has been a steady stream of visits from the police to this house across the street, where violent arguments, drunken brawls, hysterical rants, and occasional gunshots can be heard at all hours of the day and night. The old lady who owns the house, Fran, is a nice enough character, and has been a good neighbor. But her husband passed on a few years ago, and now she’s dependent upon Dean, her misanthropic “caretaker.” Dean is a loose cannon with a short fuse. The neighborhood is gripped in fear and paranoia over when and how he’s going to snap, and who’s going to get shot. He’s already been hauled in for one mental evaluation, but these evaluations have no teeth, and it’s going to take, apparently, a mountain of written complaints to get this man committed to the State Hospital in Warm Springs.
Of course, all that red tape can be circumvented if he simply kills somebody.
The responding officers told me this morning that they are just as frustrated as we are about the situation, that the mental health system has created an atmosphere where crazy people have more rights than sane people. Dean is the most clear cut case of a mentally unbalanced person I have ever met. And I’m a musician, so that’s saying something.
A few days before last Thanksgiving, I went out to check the mail at about 2:15 in the afternoon. I heard half a dozen gunshots being fired in Dean’s garage. I quickly walked back into my house and locked the front door. I watched as Dean closed his garage door, and opened the other one. He pulled Fran’s gold Cadillac out into the street, turned it around, and backed it halfway into the garage. Holy shit, I thought, he’s finally killed the old lady and is putting her in the trunk. I set up a video camera and surreptitiously recorded the scene. A half hour later, Dean, Fran, and Fran’s granddaughter, Gee, all climbed into the Caddy and drove off. I breathed a sigh of relief and put the camera away.
Does this kind of shit happen every day in your neck of the woods?
Earlier this spring Dean went out behind his house late one night, onto the golf course, and fired off several rounds from a pistol. His next-door neighbors called the police, and Dean was taken away, his pistol confiscated, and he was given the mental evaluation. They determined that he was taking his anti-depressant meds and was docile as a lamb, so they allowed him to return home (although they kept the pistol).
Dean chose Easter Sunday to distribute copies of his organization’s magazine around the neighborhood. We had several families over for an egg hunt, and imagine the kids’ delight when they returned to their minivans to discover the American Socialist Worker’s Party magazine under the windshield wiper. Oh, did I mention that Dean is the Montana contact for this Nazi group?
So here we are, cowering in our own home, with a mentally deranged Nazi gun freak across the street. He’s effectively holding an old lady hostage, and there’s nothing we can legally do to get him out of the picture. You’d think after the horrifying events at Virginia Tech a few weeks ago, someone in the legal, law enforcement, or mental health system in Missoula might be willing to stick his neck out a bit and advocate some action here before this maniac pulls the trigger one time too many. I might be a supporter of the ACLU and a believer in personal privacy and human rights, but I’m also a husband and dad who believes his family’s safety and well-being are more important than any protection or consideration this dangerous asshole across the street may enjoy.
I just hope something can be done before I come home one day to find news vans and cop cars up and down my block, and there’s crime tape around somebody’s house.