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Tim King Salem-News.com
Prosecutors want to kill a three-tour combat veteran who was prescribed dangerous drugs by the same government that trained him to kill.
Nick Horner, visit helphorner.com
(ALTOONA, Pa.) – Somewhere along the way, Americans convinced themselves that you can train a soldier to kill, send him to war, then bring him home and deactivate the killer inside with a magical switch.
We learned during the Vietnam War, or re-learned more specifically, that it doesn’t work that way. When you train thousands to survive in combat, a percentage will not easily shed those skills.
A highly decorated three-tour Iraq Army soldier named Nick Horner, a father of two beautiful children, snapped and did the unthinkable last year. The Iraq War vet went on an unprovoked shooting spree that left two people dead and a third injured.
Nick and Windy Horner
The powers to be want to put this decorated Veteran to death, but this is a country where people like Charles Manson spend years in confinement for generations.
The worst part is that the U.S. Army never even admitted that Horner suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet they took his gun away and sent him packing home before his third tour was complete. People who knew him said he was a different person upon his return. It costs the federal government money every time it grants a PTSD claim.
In the months leading up to his trial, Horner was evaluated by a Hollidaysburg psychiatrist named Dr. Edwin Tan, who stated that the combat vet suffers from war-related post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, panic disorder and sleep problems. But the doctor stopped short of saying Nick Horner’s crimes were directly related to his war experiences.
Testimony from court records indicates that April 6th started as a fairly normal for Nick Horner and his wife. According to Tan’s court ordered report, Horner and his wife Windy dropped their kids off at school and then went to a Circuit City store. They also visited a computer repairman.
Then while stopping at Wal-Mart, Nick got into a verbal argument with another driver over a parking space. This led to an argument with his wife. Horner left and then robbed the Subway restaurant on 58th Street, killed Garlick and wounded another employee, Michele Petty, before killing Williams three blocks away.
Nick Horner told police he recalled entering the Holiday Bowl where he drank a pitcher of beer, but his next memory, according to what he told the doctor, was the police taser gun.
Death was nothing new or unusual for Horner or anyone else who was in Iraq at that time. Horner, who can’t take loud sounds including helicopters and trains, talked about two fellow soldiers killed by a bomb dropped by am American Air Force plane. He told medical professionals that his PTSD began at this point.
Like other Iraq War vets, he was always on guard and his paranoia led to his choice to carry a gun. But Nick also was on a prescribed anxiety drug thae day of the murders.
Ignoring the Signs
A friend in the U.S. received a phone call from Iraq about Nick, during his third tour:
“A buddy of his that’s a squad leader called me one time and said ‘Your boy isn’t doing too good over here.’ They had to take his weapon a couple of times because he almost opened fire on what he thought was threats.”
The same friend that said when he heard about the shootings at the Subway restaurant, he knew right away that Nick Horner had gone into combat mode.
“I saw the newscast and then I read the story. Right away I identified that Nick was doing what he was trained to do. He did a rear-door entry. Unfortunately the gentleman he ran into at the park must have been in some sort of zone and posed a threat. That’s probably why he tried to take him out,” the friend said.
As one of Nick Horner’s friends who wrote to Salem-News.com said, what he did was wrong, but what Uncle Sam did to Nick Horner was wrong.
“Moreover, the government is clearly dishonest in denying that Nick’s crimes are a result of his war experiences. Surely it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Nick is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
That’s the position of the prosecutors. The interesting part is that there probably aren’t any members of this team who ever visited or served in Iraq. As a result, these attorneys have a profound lack of understanding that quite logically would block their full understanding of PTSD.
In a nation that fights wars without cause or justification, Nick Horner ultimately became a killer for lack of opportunity. He clearly knew he didn’t want to return to Iraq a third time. He tried to tell the military, but the response was that he would be kicked out of he didn’t go, and his family needed the money.
Denying the OBVIOUS
Nick Horner’s friend says the 94th Engineering Battalion, 77th Company that Nick was a part of, was not fully ready for the last deployment.
“Nick did not feel he was fit to deploy to Iraq for his 3rd tour. Nick had requested to be seen by a Psychiatrist at the Post Hospital prior to deployment to evaluate his mental status because as Nick put it, ‘He was having alot of really f#%*ed up dreams’.”
His friend explains that Nick would talk about these “dreams” and how he would go into detail of seeing small children blowing up from bombs hidden in their clothes. The psychiatrist at the military post placed Nick on anti-anxiety medication and the dosage that were much higher than Nick should have been taking.
“While in Iraq, Nick began having adverse reactions to the medications. He came upon a group of civilians and was unable to determine in his mind that they were friendlies. He locked and loaded his weapon and was preparing to fire. His weapon was immediately retrieved by a fellow soldier. Upon returning to the FOB the Commander relinquished Nick of his weapon and ordered him to seek medical from the Combat Stress Team.”
But the Army never agreed that Horner has PTSD, and the prosecutors are willing to overlook and sidestep hard evidence complied by the federal government.
Nick was told that if he could not be in Iraq, he did not deserve to be in the Army. He went through a series of medical appointments for the stress and anxiety disorders.
“He had been given numerous different medications with varying dosages, and at times became so drugged that he could not even get out of bed.”
Nick’s friend who wrote to us, says he started to wander aimlessly.
“He arrived at my home at one point and when I touched his shoulder he jumped and said, ‘How the Hell did I get here’?”
“I said, ‘Nick, you came where you felt the safest’.”
“He told me he felt he was losing his mind. He was covered in Deer Ticks and he said he had no idea how he got to my house. Later to find out he had walked 3 miles through the woods in 100 degree weather. He had been at another friend’s house and just walked away for no reason.
Another episode happened in the evening that is probably completely tied to Horner’s war experiences.
On this night, Nick just got on a mountain bike and started riding down the street.
“He was found 10 miles away in a construction area. He had crashed the bicycle into a barrier and had flown over the handle bars and landed in a large, muddy hole that was at least 8 feet deep. He had no recollection of leaving his house or where he was going or anything. He was upset that he was muddy, and had injured his back and had a bump on his head.”
The last major episode Nick’s friend relates, deals with the time Nick Horner was driving, when he lost focus and forgot that he was driving.
“He swerved off the road and plowed into a parked motorcoach nearly killing himself. Again, he did not even know what happened.”
Nick Horner’s friend says this veteran returned from Iraq as a changed person. “He would try to smile, but you could tell it pained him. He would stare into space and not respond to anyone. He was lost, and he was scared of the future.”
Horner also is reported to have had serious problems working with the local VA. He told his friend he felt like he was being treated like a number.
“He tried desperately to get them to listen, again going to many appointments and going through med changes. He was doing what he was supposed to do and the VA was not doing what they were supposed to.”
Horner’s friend says Nick had NO intention of robbing anyone or killing anyone or even hurting anyone.
A Different Take on the Story
“He was at the bowling alley to sign his wife and children up for a family bowling league because he felt that would only help strengthen their bond. When he left, he was taking the simplest route to his home. From the bowling alley to the rear of the Subway restaurant, something went wrong.”
From what the friend understands, the rear section of this Subway store looks very similar to some of the buildings in Iraq that Nick was tasked with clearing including the brown metal door.
“Something triggered Nick and he approached the door cautiously. He BANGED on the door to investigate with his pistol drawn as if in a search mode. When the 19-year old opened the door, words were exchanged and Nick recognized the boy as a hostile and fired his weapon.”
The friend says Nick entered the store using a sweeping movement until coming to the main section.
“Nick did NOT ask for money, the cashier assumed it was a robbery and filled a bag with the money and threw it to Nick. The female employee startled Nick and he fired. He left the store feeling it was secure and proceeded down a route familiar to him. A gentleman appeared suddenly and Nick fired. He searched the body to see if there was any threat from it. Retrieving mail and keys, he left the area. He was trying to return to his team.”
In this version of the story, which has received little play, Nick Horner, in a blackout essentially, was trying to locate his team.
“He was confronted with Police Officers and recognized them as his unit. He struggled slightly and then surrendered realizing they were police. Nick did not know what happened until the next day when he woke up in jail and asked ‘why am I here’, unaware of what had happened,” his friend said.
His friends and family say Nick has been in the jail since April 6th and has not received proper treatment.
“He has been refused medication on numerous occasions, denied clothing and denied general population. They have kept him in solitary confinement for most of his stay in the jail.”
What it really comes down to, is whether or not Nick Horner’s war experiences led him to commit two Murders and shoot a third person. Horner didn’t have a plan, he didn’t rob a bank or have a getaway car. What he did is tragic and he certainly deserves to be treated accordingly, but the death penalty will not achieve any goals.
What it does do is demonstrate that the government is willing to create killers, not maintain them, and then end their lives as an answer to the madness the government itself created. Maybe we should choose our wars more carefully, but it is too late for that. Killing Nick Horner is a little like killing every American who did their best serving in that dangerous, frightening place.
Federal Lies About PTSD
Army psychologist secretly discusses pressure not to diagnose PTSD
Salon.com published an article titled “I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD”, coincidentally two days later on April 8 2009, featuring an audio clip of a secret recording revealing that the Army and Veterans Administration are pushing medical staffs not to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Army and Senate have ignored the implications according to Salon.com, and anyone paying attention to these developments knows this is consistent with the VA’s pattern to date of absolutely and completely failing to fulfill its appointed mission. The agency needs funding greatly amplified if they ever want to seriously undertake that commitment.
The system simply hasn’t been designed to work with consistency. Some VA centers in wealthy communities packed with retired military like Phoenix, Arizona, receive praise from the vets who use services there.
Other VA centers which see a lot more in the way of young veterans, are overwhelmed sometimes beyond description. The money within the VA is not always fairly distributed.
This is not to imply that there aren’t a lot of qualified professionals in the VA. There are those fighting from within and their contributions are nearly invaluable.
The Internet is allowing us to break boundaries, and mounting public pressure will hopefully lead to vastly needed funding and improvements for vets.
Dr. Leveque says the cost of PTSD in our society carries an enormous price tag, that is if it is going to be effectively treated.
“It’s going to cost a trillion dollars to settle these guys down. The war in Iraq has been different from anything the U.S. had. In ‘Nam you went for 12 months and some went back for repeat tours, usually if they chose to. In this war they just keep being sent back over and over again.”
Nick’s sister Dawn believes the Army has failed her brother and the whole Altoona and Johnstown area.”We thought the Army was taking care of his mental problems, we were wrong…They were only concerned about how much money they would lose if they had to treat him and all the other soldier that have PTSD!!! This a crime and we need to prevent this from happening again. Contact your Congressmen and women stand up and help us prevent this from ever happening again.”
I explained to Dr. Leveque that some people believe the sounds of the bowling alley Nick had visited just before the Subway robbery, may have been what set the incident off.
Leveque said, “These guys, every person with this level of PTSD has his own trigger point where something sets them off. At this point he’s got a hair trigger for PTSD and you don’t know what he is going to do.”
“As you know there are a lot of returning vets who are killing their wives. If these guys get a little drunk, that’s probably the worst thing they can do is lose their inhibition.”
To view complete transcript click here
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — (Prezi)
by Hanna Chu
on 21 May 2015
Biography: Nicholas Horner
History of PTSD
Prosecution: Jackie Bernard the prosecutor was seeking the death penalty for Nicholas HornerDefense: Horner pleaded not guilty by way of insanitySentence: Life in prison due to a jury split decision
How does society view veterans with PTSD?
Symptoms of PTSD
Friedman, Matthew J. “PTSD History and Overview.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2015.”Horner to Plead Insanity.” Wearecentralalpa.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2015.Iribarren, Javier, Paolo Prolo, Negoita Neagos, and Francesco Chiappelli. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:Evidence-Based Research for the Third Millenium.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2015.
King, Tim. “Iraq Vet in Pennsylvania Murders Was Radically Changed by War and PTSD.” Salem-News.Com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2015.
Lawrence, Chris, and Jennifer Rizzo. “Under Fire: Wartime Stress as a Defense for Murder -CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 11 May 2012. Web. 05 May 2015.
Ray, Phill. “Horner Receives Life in Prison.” Altoonamirror.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2015.
“Research Paper on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” – EssayEmpire. N.p., n.d. 05 May 2015.
Sherin, Jonathan E., and Charles B. Nemeroff. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Neurobiological Impact of Psychological Trauma.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 13.3 (2011): 263–278. Print. 05 May 2015
“Special Courts Take on Criminal Cases of Veterans Struggling with Trauma.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 13 May 2015.
Wlassoff, Viatcheslav, Dr. “How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Change the Brain?” ..Brainblogger.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2015.
Yehuda, R. (2001), Are glucocorticoids responsible for putative hippocampal damage in PTSD? How and when to decide. Hippocampus, 11: 85–89. Print. 05 May 2015
“60 Minutes Advanced PTSD Therapy.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 13 May 2015.
Nicholas Horner, was a husband, a father, and a veteran soldier who had been awarded multiple medals for his service in Iraq, including a combat action badge.
Less than a year after returning from combat, Horner faced two first degree murder charges and the possibility of the death penalty.
“Not in a million years could I believe this was true because Nick would never, he could never hurt anyone,” said Horner’s mother, Karen. “I know Nick. Nick pulled the trigger, but that wasn’t Nick.”
“After he returned from Iraq, Horner was a different person…”
Nightmares/ Night Terrors
Frightening or Negative Thoughts
Anxious or worries feelings
Not being able to sleep
Being easily startled
A loss in interest in things that used to be cared about
War-related PTSD has existed as long as war itself
During the WW1 and WW2, people called some soldiers suffering from PTSD “cowards” or “deserters because of the stigma it brought
After a decade of combat, PTSD is being used as a criminal defense in the courtroom
In Horner’s case- Horner was convicted of first-degree murder. The jury couldn’t agree on the death penalty so he got life in prison
How have scientific theories for PTSD been able to prove that PTSD truly affects the brain?
What is PTSD?
Treatments: PTSD Therapy
psychological condition of combat veterans who were “shocked and unable to face experience on battlefield
soldier were rejected by peers considered weak
1980 APA recognized as disorder
experience flashbacks, nightmares
Therapy & Medication
last from 6-12 weeks
therapist focus on PTSD or social, family, work problems
Nick Horner & PTSD
never diagnosed with PTSD
VA diagnosed him with “anxiety”disorder
Wife: he never left the house, often found crying, mumbled, carried a weapon with him all times
may have killed because of repetition compulsions
PTSD was added to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-III) in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association
Its addition to the DSM-III was greatly influenced by the many veterans of the Vietnam War who developed mental illness and symptoms of PTSD
PTSD’s introduction was controversial due to its concept that cause of the mental illness came from an outside event rather than an inherent individual weakness
-Involved in normal stress reactions
-Becomes disrupted in people with
-Trouble interpreting fear
-MRI studies showed loss in
-Formation in memory
-Accounts for memory deficits
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
, is an anxiety disorder that follows a traumatic event or experience in an individual’s life.
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Blair County President Judge Jolene Kopriva said a final rebuttal witness for the prosecution will take the stand this morning when court resumes a half-hour earlier than usual.
The jury will hear closing arguments after lunch.
That will be followed by her charge to the jury outlining each of the charges Horner is facing in the April 6, 2009, killing of two people, the wounding of a third and two robberies.
Horner, 31, formerly of Johnstown, is accused of shooting to death Scott Garlick, 19, an employee of the 58th Street Subway. Horner allegedly wounded another employee, Michele Petty, and robbed the store of $133 cash.
Police say he then went several blocks to where he shot and killed Raymond Williams, 64, a retired insurance executive who for many years had an office in Vinco. Williams and his wife, Tina, had relocated to Altoona about five months prior to the shooting.
Police say Horner took Williams’ car keys and mail.
Prior to the evening adjournment Monday, Horner was brought before the bench, sworn in and in a barely audible statement said he would not be taking the witness stand in his own defense.
Under questioning from Kopriva, Horner said the decision was entirely his own and that his thinking was not impaired by any type of drugs.
It was prescription drugs that dominated the testimony Monday, with dueling experts offering widely varying opinions on what role Horner’s prescription drug use may have played in his alleged crimes.
While Horner admits pulling the trigger, his defense attorney, Thomas Dickey, maintains he lacked the mental faculties to form specific intent needed for a first-degree murder conviction because of the prescription drugs.
If Horner is convicted of first-degree murder, he will face the death penalty.
Horner, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Kuwait prior to his discharge from the Army for medical reasons, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, something which for several months was believed would be the basis for his defense.
But experts for the defense and the prosecution said Monday that Horner’s PTSD did not play a role in his actions, which included shooting out the utilities at the rear of the Subway prior to opening fire on Garlick and Petty.
That is where any agreement between the experts ended.
Dr. Ernest Boswell, a clinical psychologist from St. Paul, Minn., who has an extensive background working with Iraq war veterans, said he has assessed 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers for the military, and Horner’s actions don’t fit the pattern.
However, the PTSD resulted in medications that created other problems, he said.
“I think there’s a significant amount of credible information to say he has PTSD,” Boswell said. “I do not believe the PTSD in and of itself is a causal pathway to this. It was not a flashback consistent with PTSD.”
Rather, Boswell said, Horner’s actions point to disorientation and confusion, the result of a drug- induced delirium that can be brought on by use of benzodiazepine, a psychoactive drug sometimes called Clonazepam. It was one of a number of prescription drugs found in Horner’s home the night of the incident.
“During the whole incident, his pattern of behavior is illogical, it’s irrational, it’s not put together,” Boswell said.
When asked to explain why Horner appeared normal earlier in the day when he spent several hours at the Holiday Bowl and why he ran from police to avoid capture following the shootings, Boswell said the disorientation “waxes and wains,” an assertion rejected by an expert for the prosecution.
Speculation is that Horner’s use of the drug may have been greater than prescribed on the day of the incident.
Dr. Robert Middleberg, a forensic toxicologist from Willow Grove, said the drug is heavily used nationwide – as many as 23 million prescriptions in 2010 – with relatively few problems.
It acts to depress the central nervous system and users become lethargic and tired. Conditions are similar to those caused by drinking alcohol, Middleberg said.
In viewing a video of Horner at the bowling alley prior to the shootings and hearing of his later actions, Middleberg said he saw nothing that would suggest drug-induced delirium.
Dr. Steven Samuel, a forensic psychologist from Philadelphia, testified for the prosecution that an extensive review of Horner’s records and a 45-minute interview with him at SCI-Cresson led him to believe Horner does have PTSD, along with attention deficit disorder and other mental problems.
“He certainly has a myriad of problems, but I don’t think they have any direct impact on what happened here,” he said.