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Father Tried to Get Help for Suspect Killed by Authorities

Posted May 23, 2007
Updated May 24, 2007

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— The father of a man shot to death on Raleigh's Interstate 440 Beltline Tuesday said he was concerned for his son's mental health and tried to get help him, but restricted access to medical records prevented it.

Concerned for his son's safety, Albert Gibson said he went to the Wake County Sheriff's Office on May 10 for help to try to have a pistol purchase permit revoked that his son, Stephen Ryan Gibson, obtained legally.

Authorities said the 23-year-old Raleigh man led law-enforcement authorities on a 70-mile, multi-county high-speed car chase that ended with four Highway Patrol troopers and a Wake County sheriff's deputy shooting him as he emerged from his car with a weapon.

"I just worried about him having a gun," Gibson said. "I just thought he wasn't capable of having a gun."

Earlier this year, Albert Gibson got a commitment order to have his son evaluated for mental health issues. He said his son went to Dorothea Dix Hospital, but was released on the same day.

Stephen Gibson had obtained the pistol purchase permit prior to the mental evaluation.

Albert Gibson said he tried to talk to the doctors who evaluated his son about his diagnosis, but because his son was an adult, the law prevented medical providers from sharing that information.

The law also makes it difficult for law-enforcement authorities to gain access to medical records.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said that because sheriff's deputies had no proof of a mental illness, there was little that could have been done to help Gibson.

"The concern was there, but there was no proof," Harrison said. "See, that's the problem, we've got to have proof."

The laws has also made it difficult for WRAL to find out exactly where Gibson was evaluated. There are several mental health facilities not affiliated with the hospital in close proximity to the hospital where Gibson might have been evaluated, such as the Wake County Mental Health Crisis Assessment Center, but WRAL was unable to reach the facility late Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Guilford County state lawmaker Rep. Pricey Harrison said he is looking at the issue and trying to improve this flow of critical information.

"I think it's very clear that we need to keep guns out of the hands of folks who are unstable," Harrison said.

90 Comments

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  • lizard May 25, 2007

    The police got Rush Limbaugh's health records.

  • djofraleigh May 24, 2007

    The law seems to have been followed here.
    We still don't know that the guy was mentally ill,
    tho we are talking like he was because he stole a car,
    robbed a store, and tried to get away without giving up.
    Does that really mean he was mentally ill?

    Do we want to open mental health records to the police?
    If we do, will paranoid people refuse mental health?
    How honest am I going to be with a therapist when everything I say may be held against me forever? Should my priest and my ex-wife be consulted before I get a gun?

    The man was probably deranged the day of the incident, and maybe he was young and foolish and thought all wrong. Dix may have not have been able to see into his soul, and maybe he was not that day, a threat to himself or others.

    We don't know. What do we want to do differently next time? We know that when the man got the gun he was planning something. We know when he drove the stolen car he was ready to take a risk, and ready to do harm at the robbery

  • lizard May 24, 2007

    Liberalism is a mental illness.

    This was a grown man that died people! Quit calling him a child. Sheeesh.

  • cjo32 May 24, 2007

    The liberals democrats have run this state for 50 years what do you expect-problems like this to be solved?

  • SailbadTheSinner May 24, 2007

    This is another side-effect of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). This law was promoted to ‘protect’ consumers. What is really does is to make it much more difficult to get medical information to support litigation against medical malpractice. The main beneficiary turns out to be the insurance companies.

    Another side-effect is that it has dramatically increased the cost of informed-consent drug development and medical research.

  • Bat Man May 24, 2007

    Thoughts and prayers go out to the officers who were put into this situation by a system that failed. It is something the officers will have to live with the rest of their lives.

  • Free at Last May 24, 2007

    Some of the people's comments tell me that they have never had a mentally ill love one. I pray they never experience the horror. May God bless the father and all that care.

  • ksh33 May 24, 2007

    twig - don't be so quick to pass judgment on someone and call them a thug! A true "thug" would have killed the clerk in the store or perhaps shot randomly out of the car at innocent people, in order to "represent.' Not that anyone is asking you to accept the diagnosis of mental illness, but who are you NOT to believe it. Just some food for your thoughts!

  • billy May 24, 2007

    This father should be commended for trying to help his son.
    He did what he could and the way the system is set up it just didn't work.
    Privacy laws are good, but sometimes a little bit of common sense would help.
    Perhaps some "exceptions" could be built in to the privacy laws to at least hold off on granting gun permits until some type of hearing could be held in cases where there may be reason to doubt a persons mental health.
    Just an idea.

  • dlmagoo May 24, 2007

    It sounds to me as if this boy WAS a victim. The father did get an involuntary committment for him but Dix didn't see fit to keep him the 72 hours (for whatever reason). And for those that say he was sane enought to steal the car and rob the station, well anyone ever heard of "suicide by cop"?? It's an actual issue that many people have, too scared to kill themselves but they know that they have to die, so they do something stupid to get a cop to shoot them... ie.. hostage situations.

    This child needed help and he was failed, not by his dad but by the system that was set up to help him.

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