Local News

Father Tried to Get Help for Suspect Killed by Authorities

Posted May 23, 2007 9:57 p.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2007 9:32 a.m. EDT

— 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.