“I was halfway there, when he gets up, he turns around, and he’s pointing a gun at me,” a grief-stricken mother told a Florida court of her son yesterday. “I screamed at the top of my lungs in Spanish. I put myself back and in Spanish I said, ‘Jason! Jason! Jason! It’s me, mom! Mom! Don’t be afraid! It’s mom!”
It was clear from the testimony of Anna Rodriguez that the loss of his mind caused her son, Jason Rodriguez, to go on a shooting rampage in downtown Orlando four years ago. Clearly delusional and medically incompetent to stand trial, he’s being tried for a capital offense anyway.
As the prosecution rested on the seventh day of trial, it was obvious that the man was dock was psychotic. Hearing voices that fed him lies about a conspiracy against him and his mother, Jason opened fire on six people at his former Orlando workplace, killing 26 year-old Otis Beckford four years ago this month.
Orlando prosecutors argued Rodriquez was only settling a score because he’d been let go. Absurd. He’s one of the 3 million Americans that suffer from schizophrenia. The voices that drove him to it are not properly treated–oddly, psychiatrists themselves spend a lot of time mostly ignoring the chief symptom of schizophrenia. Yet until our country is willing to have an adult conversation about the very real human experience of hearing voices, the carnage is sure to continue.
Contending he was incompetent to stand trial, yesterday the defense called Dr. Randy Otto as its first witness. Otto testified Rodriguez “believed that there was a conspiracy of many people working together to harm him and his family.”
Ottos said Rodriguez hears a voice he calls “sharp tooth,’ which send him “threatening and derogatory” messages typical of those heard routinely by many people with schizophrenia.
Rodriguez was sacked for poor performance in 2007. He was working at a Subway restaurant at the time of the shooting. The prosecution had shown a news clip of Rodriguez after he was apprehended. In the clip, a reporter asks why he did it. “They left me to rot,” Rodriguez said.
Anna Rodriguez says her son has been delusional at least since he began hearing voices in 2006.
Maria Pizarro, a nurse practitioner who saw Rodriguez as a patient at Greater Orlando Psychology Associates for four years, from 2003 through 2007, agreed. Pizarro told the court that Rodriguez felt his identity had been stolen and “someone was trying to hurt him.”
He was admitted to a hospital the next month with bipolar disorder and schizophrenic symptoms, Pizarro said. His condition improved, she said, but he began missing appointments in January 2008.
People with schizophrenia are no more prone to violent than the rest of us, on average, though the delusions that inspire the violence seemingly random in nature.
Guns are everywhere (300 million on the streets of America) and so is schizophrenia (3 million distributed evenly across America), which is not a good combo. In fact, if we were to create a worse condition in a laboratory, we couldn’t do it.
In the absence of common sense solutions, the twin plagues of guns vs. psychosis—both found in every town, big or small—more killings are simply unavoidable.
So it was a bit disingenuous of the prosecutor to badger his mother on the witness stand yesterday, as if society’s unwillingness to have an adult conversation about the very real human experience of hearing voices were all the fault of one poor mother.
Let’s face it, control gun and severe mental illness are like two broad roads running side by side in opposite directions. Second Amendment absolutists don’t like to hear it, but the undeniable fact is that in a world awash in weaponry (300 million guns on the streets of America), and with an absence of treatment available for one in three individuals with schizophrenia (that’s one in three of a whopping 3 million people), there’s not a town big or small that’s not at risk.
So long as hearing voices remains a conversation that’s outside our childish culture’s comfort zone–and to a large degree outside the comfort zone of American psychiatry itself, but that’s for another post–it’s a pretty sure bet this story keeps repeating itself, coming this week or next to a neighborhood near you.
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Last reviewed: 15 Nov 2013