Family Blames Shooting on Failure to Take Medicine
Posted April 12, 1998
ROCKY MOUNT — Three people continue to recover from gunshot wounds after a weekend attack in Nash County. Three other family members died when the gunman opened fire at a family birthday party.
After an intensive manhunt, 26-year old Keith Powell, the man who allegedly fired the shots, was found dead in his car. Investigators say Powell killed himself.
Family members say Powell signed himself out of a mental hospital just a few months ago. His family had him committed last year. Friends say Powell's family did everything they could to help him.
Neighbor James Evans says he believes Powell would never have murdered three family members, if he hadn't stopped taking his medication.
Powell recently walked out of a mental hospital after six months of treatment, reportedly for schizophrenia. He left with a medication plan designed to stop his violent thoughts, but Saturday, those thoughts apparently erupted into gunfire.
Irene Whitfield is a friend of the family. She says those killed were good people.
A person has to go through several checkpoints before he or she is involuntarily committed, but it takes a doctor's exam to admit them to the hospital. That physician has to agree that the person has a mental illness and is a danger to himself and others.
Once the patient is admitted to the hospital, he goes through a second exam with a different doctor, and finally an independent hearing with a team of experts. After all that, Powell eventually signed himself out of the mental hospital legally, and some family and friends say the murders prove that he wasn't ready.
Family friend Charles Whitfield says it's just not the sort of thing that happens to people like these.
Family members say they did everything they could for Powell, but it wasn't enough to protect him or the people who loved him.
Funerals for those killed in the shooting are scheduled for later this week.