|Scotty Baker, with his mother, mental health advocate Dottie Pacharis, in 2006, one year before he died by suicide.|
"My adult son suffered from severe bipolar disorder. During his first manic episode in January 1994, while he lived in northern Virginia, he became psychotic, paranoid, and lost touch with reality. He developed an unhealthy fixation for the president and made many attempts to get into the White House for what he actually thought were scheduled meetings with President Bill Clinton.
But he was in denial that anything was wrong with him. It took the assault of a police officer to get him committed. He spent his 27th birthday in a padded cell in the psychiatric ward at a Virginia hospital. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and transferred to a mental hospital where, after six weeks of involuntary commitment and forced meds, he recovered and resumed his life. Six years later, when he stopped taking his meds, he suffered a second psychotic break, this time fixating on President George W. Bush. He claimed he was in possession of very important information for both these presidents and he needed to share it. As seems to be the case with the two alleged White House fence-jumpers this month, Dominic Adesayana and Omar Gonzalez, his sickness propelled him there.
After 9/11, my son told his family he had obtained a top secret security clearance at the White House, that the FBI had issued him a special gun permit, and that he was exercising his constitutional right to purchase a gun. Several days later, he showed up at the White House and told the Secret Service he was there for his scheduled appointment with Bush. I became very concerned for his and everyone else’s safety. What would Secret Service do if they ever encountered him? Were they trained to distinguish between a terrorist and a mentally ill person?
Most people who try to enter the White House without permission, [a Secret Service agent] told me, suffer from mental illness. Nevertheless, it is the job of the Secret Service to protect the president, and his colleagues were sworn to do so at all costs, he said. He told me the agents would first shoot my son with rubber bullets. If that didn’t stop him, they would use a Taser on him. If that didn’t take him down, they would be forced to shoot him in one or both of his legs to immobilize him.
I was flummoxed by how familiar the Secret Service was with this sort of threat. How very sad that in this country we allow individuals with serious mental illness to commit crimes before we treat them. Mr. Gonzales, an Army veteran, who is charged with recently scaling the White House fence with a knife in his possession, suffered from post-traumatic stress, according to his family."