Man: Hospital scene was a cry for help

The Corvallis Gazette Times, July 25, 2010

The man who pulled up to the Albany Oregon hospital with a gun to his head in May says it was a cry for help — help he still cannot find.

Glen Hammersley takes responsibility for his actions on May 24, when he sat in the breezeway of Samaritan Albany General Hospital with a .38 special revolver.

Police received a call from hospital staff saying a man was parked at the emergency entrance threatening suicide unless hospital staff admitted him and helped him with his mental and physical health issues.

Police surrounded the car and coaxed Hammersley into putting the gun down. Hammersley’s partner had driven him to the hospital but did not know his intentions. Hammersley did not threaten anyone. The handgun was loaded and he was under the influence of alcohol.

“All I was asking for was some help,” Hammersley said last week. “There was no suicidal ideology at all.”

He said he went to the extreme of creating a public scene so he could finally get help for alcoholism and chronic pain — the result of an injury he suffered about eight years ago while on the job as a crisis intervention specialist at the Oregon Youth Authority.

Instead he was taken to the Linn County Jail for 24 hours, then to the VA hospital in Roseburg. He says the only medical treatment he received there was a three-day IV drip of vitamins and minerals. Then deputies showed up with a warrant and took him back to jail. It was 10 days before his partner could come up with security to get him out, which she said this week put them behind on their bills.

Today, he is scheduled to attend a settlement hearing in Linn Circuit Court on a charge of possession of a firearm in a public building, a felony.

Hammersley said he wouldn’t quibble with a charge of creating a public disturbance but takes issue with the felony, arguing the space outside the emergency entrance should not qualify as “in a building.”

Frank Moore, who heads up Linn County’s mental health department, said in incidents like Hammersley’s, after law enforcement renders the situation safe, the person would undergo a mental health evaluation.

“If there was substance abuse involved, that would cloud the issue,” he said.

Medical professionals did not diagnose Hammersley as having a disease identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Also, by his own admission, Hammersley was under the influence of alcohol. He always is. A self-proclaimed alcoholic, he says he uses a fifth of whiskey every day to mitigate his pain. He says he has seen the effects of narcotics and wants no part of that.

He says his body is deteriorating and he doesn’t have long for this world. He says the only reason he is hanging is that his partner won’t qualify for Social Security for another two years and he doesn’t want to leave her in dire financial straits.

Hammersley said he spent “half his adult life” serving others first in the Army during the Vietnam War, then in law enforcement in Albany, Malheur and Benton counties, ending with the injury at the OYA. He says while attempting to control a youth, his fifth and sixth cervical discs were damaged.

He said his condition was improperly documented and the didn’t get workers’ compensation until six years later and it was only $500. He is currently collecting $1,800 a month in long-term disability.

Hammersley said he was hoping the gun incident would get him a 72-hour mental health commitment, which he was familiar with due to his knowledge of law enforcement and health care protocol.

“The only thing I wanted was help,” he said. “The whole idea was three days of detox.”

He has attempted to self-detox in the past, but Hammersley said it brought on seizures and a heart rate so high he is surprised it didn’t kill him.

He said he has looked all over the state for treatment options and come up with none.

That doesn’t surprise Moore, who said there is an extremely limited number of beds for medically supervised detoxification in the state of Oregon and private services such as Serenity Lane are too expensive for many.

Hammersley, who turns 55 today, anticipates the firearm charge will be downgraded from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

But he is concerned the judge will stipulate no alcohol as a part of his agreement, which he says will lead to seizures and possibly a stroke.

The best possible outcome, Hammersley said, would be a hospital bed and treatment of the pain.

Or, he says, the court could drop the whole thing and “let this old cop die.”