University of Maryland murder-suicide (3)
State’s attorney urges tougher gun purchase rules in wake of College Park murder-suicide
Alleged shooter had left mental health facility one month prior to purchasing rifle, official says
Dayvon Green, a University of Maryland graduate student, checked out of a mental health facility just one month prior to purchasing a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle — one of the weapons found in a bag near his body after he shot his two roommates, killing one, and then committed suicide, according to Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.
“There’s something cruel about selling handguns to those who suffer from mental illness,” she said. “This is a textbook example of the dangers of firearms possessed by certain individuals.”
As a result, Alsobrooks is pushing for better communication between gun dealers and mental health institutions, increased background information sharing and a review of whether individuals should be unable to purchase guns even if they have been in a mental institution for less than 30 days. She said she is in the process of meeting with state committees to determine possible solutions.
Early Feb. 12, Green, 23, fatally shot roommate Stephen Rane, 22, an undergraduate student from Silver Spring and shot and injured Neal Oa, 22, another undergraduate roommate from Urbana, according to county police, at their off-campus rental home in College Park. Green then took his own life, police said.
According to police, Green’s body was found near a 9 mm handgun they said was the murder weapon, along with a shoulder bag containing a loaded semiautomatic rifle, ammunition, a machete and a baseball bat. The rifle was legally purchased Jan. 30 at a gun store in Silver Spring; the handgun was legally purchased in Baltimore County in 2012, police said.
Green suffered from several psychological illnesses, including schizophrenia, paranoia and bipolar disorder, Alsobrooks said. Green had been taking medication for the illnesses prior to purchasing both firearms, authorities said.
Green had self-admitted himself several times into a mental institution in Maryland over the past several years leading up to the murder-suicide, Alsobrooks said.
“We have a moral obligation to provide better protection even for individuals who suffer from mental illness,” Alsobrooks said.
Prince George’s police are still trying to determine whether Green had been admitted into an institution for more than 30 consecutive days, which would have disqualified him from legally purchasing firearms based on current Maryland law.
Alsobrooks said even if Green had been in mental institutions for less than 30 consecutive days and legally purchased the firearms, she doesn’t feel he should have had access to firearms.
“If a person is admitted for 29 days, are they any less dangerous than someone in there for 30 days?” she said.
It remains unclear as to whether Green was plotting an additional violent act other than shooting his roommates and himself. Police said they have not recovered a suicide note or any other letter detailing premeditated plans.
“He could have gone on campus very easily. There could have been without a moment’s notice another mass shooting,” Alsobrooks said.
During a campuswide memorial Feb. 12 to mourn the victims of the shooting, UM President Wallace Loh said policy changes need to be addressed. Loh has been meeting with university police officials and others to discuss how similar events might be prevented, according to university police.
During a town hall Feb. 5 led by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) in Largo, discussions focused on the state’s proposed Firearm Safety Act of 2013, and Brown said the legislation is still being constructed.
Casey Anderson, a spokesman for Maryland Against Gun Violence, a grassroots organization focused on legislation to regulate guns, said he expects the incident to play a role in legislative efforts.
“In this particular case, I think that’s why this issue isn’t going away,” Anderson said, noting mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. “What we saw in Aurora and Newtown is this inconvenient problem that people continue to get shot.
“People look at things like this most recent incident and all the carnage that happened before and you have to ask yourself, ‘Is there really nothing we can do about this?’” Anderson said
Patrick Shomo, president of Maryland Shall Issue, a pro-gun rights organization, said state legislation should not focus on prohibiting sales of certain firearms but rather tend to those with mental illnesses and find ways to properly treat them.
“What scares me about this College Park story and Aurora and others is that once they’ve crossed the line about being a danger to others, you cannot just give them a bottle of pills and have them say they won’t hurt anybody.”
“What scares me about this College Park story and Aurora and others is that once they’ve crossed the line about being a danger to others, you cannot just give them a bottle of pills and have them say they won’t hurt anybody,” he said. “We’re throwing these people back into the streets and paying the price for it.”
He said mental health professionals need to weigh in and determine how those with mental illnesses can receive better treatment. He also said peers who notice warning signs of violence in individuals should have no hesitation in reporting such behavior.
County Councilwoman Karen R. Toles (D-Dist. 7) of Suitland, a UM alumna, said county and state officials need to come up with ways of monitoring the mental state of those with mental illness and find the root causes of psychological behaviors.
“Everyone has issues that are going on in their lives. Sometimes it’s really not just about helping the individual but looking at people around the individual like in this case, his roommates,” she said, regarding the need for efforts to determine where conflicts exist before problems arise.
UM offers a number of counseling services, none of which Green ever used, according to campus officials.
Senior Jesse Rabinowitz, 22, of Norfolk, Va., said he volunteers with the campus’ student-run peer counseling center that runs a 24-hour hotline for students. He said they do not track the number of calls they take annually or give out information regarding the nature of calls to protect callers’ privacy.
“There is no issue too big or too small,” he said. “There’s a lot of hurt and pain after this has happened so close to us. It’s given us a renewed passion to push out the hotline and hope people use it.”