Loudoun County Sheriff Responds To Father’s Complaints About How His Son Was Treated During Mental Health Crisis

(4-19-18) I posted a letter Tuesday (17th) from a father in Loudoun County, Virginia who called the Sheriff’s Office for help when his son’s mental illness became difficult for the family to handle. The father complained about how Crisis Intervention Team trained deputies and the overall department handled the situation. 

This father’s son was released from the detention center yesterday (18th). By that time, he had spent seven days in a hospital receiving care and 30 days in jail, including five days in the Riverside Regional Jail two hours away from his home on suicide watch naked in a single cell.

He has been charged with seven misdemeanors and the father questioned in his letter why his son ended up being charged, arrested and held for a month without bond when his family called seeking help.

I forwarded his complaint to Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.   I am posting his version of events in its entirety unedited and without comment. I feel it is important for him to have an opportunity to respond and appreciate him doing so.

Given that this young man already has spent 30 days in jail, I hope the charges against him will be dismissed when he appears in court next month and he is able to get meaningful community mental health care. 

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

Dear Mr. Earley,

I am in receipt of the article you published entitled, “I Called Loudoun County Deputies for Help. Instead My Son Was Jailed. Hospital: 7 days. Jail:29 days and Counting.” As the facts and circumstances contained in your posting on behalf of the complainant are inaccurate, please allow me to address them factually, step by step. I think this is important as this response will serve to educate the general public regarding the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, mandated processes within the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the paramount importance of safety as it pertains to citizens suffering a mental health crisis, family members surrounding these individuals, and the safety of responding law enforcement officers.

First and foremost, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) treats every behavioral health incident with respect, dignity and professionalism. This is evidenced by the fact that our agency has become a state and national leader in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). The LCSO was the first agency in the Commonwealth to receive the Virginia Crime Intervention Team Deputy of the Year and, in less than five years after implementing this program, has trained 100% of all uniformed patrol deputies with two or more years on patrol, the Adult Detention Center and deputies serving in the courts. In addition to the hundreds of deputies trained, virtually all of the LCSO’s dispatchers have been trained and certified in order to better recognize potential mental or behavioral health incidents from the time the initial call is received. All of this is done to help de-escalate potential violence that may surround a mental health incident.

Great steps have also been taken to provide resources for those experiencing behavioral crises, depression, or suicidal thoughts as well as to their families. In 2015, the LCSO, in collaboration with Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services (Loudoun MHSADS), established the Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center (CITAC) to offer a more effective way to help people struggling with a mental health crisis.

Over the years, these efforts have helped deescalate reports of violence sometimes associated with a behavioral crisis. This is reflected in the LCSO seeing a sharp decrease in TASER usage. In 2013, for example, when CIT was just getting underway, TASERs were deployed thirty-two times. As more deputies became CIT trained, the LCSO observed a decrease in the ratio of TASER usages. In 2014, that number went down to eighteen deployments and that number was further reduced to just four deployments last year. So far this year, there have been no instances where a TASER is used. This clearly demonstrates the value of improved communications from LCSO’s CIT training.

With regard to the detention order and criminal charges surrounding the son of the complainant, I cannot comment in great detail as the charges have not yet been adjudicated. However, I can discuss what is a matter of public record as well as the points raised in your public posting.

In this specific incident, parents requested assistance after their adult son threatened to physically harm them and himself. The son, who stands at 6’5” tall and weighs over 300 pounds, was reported to be acting violently. Additional background obtained necessitated a multiple unit response to include a K9 unit.

Despite the caller’s reference to a mental health issue, circumstances in which a person is violent, uncooperative, and pose a threat to themselves, their family, the responding deputies, and the outside community, does not exonerate them from criminal charges once the situation has been controlled. The criminal complaint (public record) notes that the subject threatened to “find where (deputies) lived and slit (their) throats.” The subject also made “threats to kill an unknown passerby…(and) continued to threaten his parents”. He actively resisted when deputies were trying to handcuff him.

When the subject was transported to the patrol vehicle, he kicked a cruiser multiple times causing extensive damage. A custody order was issued allowing Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services (Loudoun MHSADS) to evaluate him at the Stone Springs Hospital Emergency Room. Custody was assumed by Loudoun MHSADS and the subject was ultimately treated and transported to a mental health facility in Northern Virginia. At this point, custody was assumed by the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute (NVMHI). The subject was then relocated by NVMHI to another mental health facility in central Virginia.

For disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, and vandalism to the patrol cruiser, the LCSO obtained misdemeanor warrants. These warrants are “held” until the subject was released from mental health care. He was ultimately released on 3/29/18 and was detained by the Petersburg Police Department due to the warrants on file. He was held in their jail for 5-6 days until extradition was arranged with LCSO on 4/3/18.

The complainant’s son was transported by LCSO deputies to the Loudoun County facility on Tuesday, 4/3/18, and committed during afternoon hours. He is receiving proper attention by Loudoun MHSADS at the Adult Detention Center. Per the order of the Magistrate, originally no bond was set and the individual is set to attend court on 5/8/18.

After carefully reviewing this incident, all indications support that the LCSO deputies were in complete conformity with their CIT training, acted professionally within the law, and appropriately handled each stage of the incident. The subject was properly – and immediately referred to mental health professionals who conducted their own assessments and treatment.

Warrants were issued based on probable cause for criminal violations, and he was properly transported and processed in accordance with Virginia law and LCSO policy once mental health treatment was completed. He was released from the Adult Detention Center on an unsecured bond which was determined by the Magistrate today.

We empathize with all families who anguish over the traumas and difficulties associated with mental health. We have taken extensive steps to properly handle people suffering mental and behavioral crisis, but we also encourage County residents to utilize resources available to them. An important resource is the Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center (CITAC) which is located at 102 Heritage Way (Shenandoah Building), Leesburg, Va. It is open for walk-ins from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Mental health professionals are available for anyone in crisis. Additionally, Loudoun MHSADS help is available 24 hours, 7 days a week for anyone experiencing immediate and severe emotional crisis at 703-777-0320. Non-emergency appointments can be made at 703-771-5155.

Other support services include: Friends of Loudoun Mental Health; the National Alliance on Mental Illness; and private sector medical and counseling professionals. Our goal is to treat every citizen with dignity and respect, recognize the rule of law, provide you with valuable information, and ensure safety for all members of our community.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.