Milian stood five hours outside, talking down a deluded man with an insane amount of firepower at the ready. Someone, as Judge Leifman pointed out, “who thought cops were out to kill him.” All this unfolded just three days after another mad man with an assault weapon brought such awful carnage to Newtown, Conn. Milian just shrugged off the risk. “That’s what we do, as negotiators,” he insisted. “Try to bring a situation to an end in a peaceful manner.” But as he said it, I kept thinking about those 20 assault weapons. About Sandy Hook and Aurora.
Habsi Kaba called Milian a hero. But not just for his work on Dec. 17, when he was able to coax the vet to come out of his fortress home, unarmed, to be taken to the crisis stabilization unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital. On Thursday, Milian also attended the vet’s Baker Act hearing, a formality cops usually skip. But he knew that the mentally ill, often as not, are simply turned loose once their acute symptoms have abated. “We Baker Act people and then see them back on the streets within hours,” he said.
Kaba said Miami-Dade police, trained to take mentally ill people to crisis stabilization units instead of jail, often find that they’ve picked up the same, deranged individuals eight or nine times. “The police are trained. They know what to do. But we don’t have the resources or the funding or the beds [to provide adequate mental health treatment],” she said.
And then there’s the law. Unless the mentally ill agree to more extensive treatment, they can’t be held more than a few hours unless they’re deemed to be an immediate threat to themselves or someone else. They can refuse the very treatment they need. The problem, of course, is that the nature of mental illness precludes accurate self-diagnosis.
Milian was worried that the vet might be simply set free, without the treatment he needs. Kaba said that before the Baker Act hearing on Thursday, she figured the chances of getting the vet into a hospital setting “was 50-50.” Judge Leifman said that if the vet, who faces no criminal charges, had been freed, he could have legally reclaimed his guns. “There’s no law limiting how many assault weapons you can have. Or how much ammo.”
Maybe it was all that firepower that frightened the hearing officer. Maybe it was pleas from the vet’s family. Maybe it was Milian, who came to the three-hour hearing, determined that a veteran received the help that was owed him. But reason prevailed and the vet was on his way to an involuntary hospital stay. He’ll be held for at least 120 days. What should have happened (but doesn’t often) happened. The vet got treatment. The public got a reprieve from a dangerous situation.
Here’s hoping the Christmas miracle evolves into long-term treatment and mental stability. Because, after the troubled vet th Avenue emerges from his hospital stay, there’s no law preventing him from taking his firearms, his ammo and his paranoid delusions back to his fortress town house.