David Sarasohn: Tragedy on Portland parking structure ‘a failure on multiple levels’

Santiago Cisneros III

Santiago Cisneros III

By David Sarasohn, The Oregonian, March 8, 2013

In the most recent fatal shooting by Portland police, of an attacker who reportedly fired a shotgun at two policemen on a parking structure roof, two uncontrolled streams run together.

The death of mentally ill people at the hands of police — sometimes called “suicide by cop” — is an unnerving trend throughout the country. It’s sometimes unclear what options police have, especially if the figure is armed and attacking. But it’s been enough of a problem for Portland police that last September a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found the department showed a “pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.”

READWhat Happened to Santiago Cisneros

READSuicide by Cop: A Rights Perspective

But Santiago A. Cisneros III, who died of the wounds he received Monday night, had a particular problem. He was an Iraq war veteran featured in a Seattle TV documentary about post-traumatic stress disorder. “I fought a war back there in Iraq,” he told the camera. “I didn’t know I was going to have to fight a war back here in the United States within myself.”

Thousands and thousands have returned or will return from combat,and PTSD is more pervasive — and serious — than we like to think. Service and veteran suicide rates are at scary levels.

It’s a failure on multiple levels if PTSD flows into suicide by cop.