CRIME WATCH--On Monday in Whittier a villainous person murdered a police officer and seriously wounded another who had come to render him aid due to his involvement in a traffic accident. Early that day, he had murdered his cousin, Roy Gogers Torres, in East Los Angeles.
The killer, Michael Christopher Mejia, who was born and grew up in the United States, had been in prison for a felony robbery in 2010 and grand theft auto in 2014 and he had been released from prison in April 2016 – after serving his full prison term. From the frequency with which the authorities had ‘violated” Mejia for his behavior since his April release, it appears that probation knew he posed a serious danger. On February 2, the Sheriff’s Department gave him a “flash incarceration,” and he was released February 11th. They gave Mejia the maximum time under Flash Incarceration which is ten days.
In the subsequent media-fed hysteria people should know that Mejia was not out of prison due to any of the ‘early release’ measures which the public and legislature have passed. This rumor was fueled by a craven media who seized upon the extreme grief of Whittier Chief Piper who lashed out at the so called ‘early release’ laws while fighting off tears over the murder of his good friend, Officer Keith Boyer (photo above). Also, the Sheriff’s department repetition of this falsehood contributed to a public outcry to reverse the early release program.
In what world is disseminating false information which is designed to inflame the passions of the public a wise idea? We live in a world where Alt-facts rule and now we see denials on line insisting that the first reports were correct and Mejia was early release. Thus, the solution by politicians who also prefer hyper-emotional Alt-facts is to attack the Early Release Program even if the reality is that early release makes our communities safer.
Psychopaths Do Not Yield to Easy Solutions
A few days later, in the face of more reliable information … thank you, LA Times … it appears that Mejia is a Psychopath. Other people describe this type of person criminally insane. Or, we may use the idea that he was a very dangerous person. While we need to await more details, the frequency with which Mejia was jailed for probation violations indicates that the authorities were keeping close tabs on him. It bears repeating that they had given him the maximum ten days under Flash Incarceration.
We lack data to provide a clinical diagnosis, but it is sufficient for our purposes to recognize that law enforcement knew this individual as extremely dangerous. Let’s stress the word individual. Law enforcement has to deal with specific individual human beings and it is our function as a society to provide them with the tools. We do not do that and tragedy results.
Systemic Problems Lack Quick Fixes
No institution in our society adequately deals with people who have mental illness. That applies from the Presidency to the jailer who has to supervise violent prisoners in “lock-down.” Our inability is a systemic problem … that means it is found in all parts of society. Professionals now realize that the term “Mental Illness” is both misleading and counterproductive, but it is an advance over the notions that ‘crazy people” are possessed by demons.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder [DSM-5] is an attempt to classify behavior patterns which our society finds harmful. Seldom does it shed light on why someone has a certain pattern and the effort to devise a classification system on which people agree is on-going. People cannot decide whether Donald Trump, for example, suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or a Histrionic Personality Disorder. It is beneficial to look at Trump because one can see how extremely difficult it is to constrain someone who suffers from a mental disorder.
Donald Trump exists at the tippy top of the social ladder with access to the very best help in the world, while Mejia was on the bottom rung of the ladder. In the final analysis, Donald Trump’s mental disorders are likely to result in far greater death, destruction and bereavement than Mejia’s murderous behavior.
As a society we need to admit that mental disorders are a systemic aspect of our national life affecting every one of us. There are no quick fixes. Our institutions are unable to handle these very serious problems, but as they say in AA, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.
And, as a society, we need to agree that the spread of misinformation in an attempt to support a cause, in the end, benefits no one and is harmful to everyone.
The Times did not seem to contribute to the disinformation but on Wednesday did a rather comprehensive article outlining the errors in the rush to blame the early release programs.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)