Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chuck and Carolyn Engeldinger, parents of recent Minneapolis mass shooter Andrew Engeldinger Interviewed on MPR

Cross posted from Penigma

This is an excellent, but heartbreaking interview:

October is Mental Health Awareness month.

We do NO screening whatsoever for mental illness before a person can buy a firearm, other than in the instance of purchases from a FFL seller checking the NICS data base.

Unfortunately, that data base is painfully incomplete, even in the cases of the names of known, adjudicated mentally ill individuals. It is extremely difficult, and costly, to have an individual adjudicated mentally ill. Many of those who pose the greatest risk to themselves and others, like James Holmes the (alleged) shooter in Aurora, Colorado, like Andrew Engeldinger, in the Minneapolis mass shooting, like Ian Stawicki in Seattle, like Jared Loughner in the Tucson mass shooting, like Neil Prescott in Maryland, have no barriers to buying an unlimited amount of firearms, including assault-style weapons, expanded capacity magazines, massive quantities of ammunition, or body armor to resist intervention by law enforcement.  All of the above were diagnosed and treated for mental illness, all of them were recognized by the people around them as dangerous.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; these were just the first few off the top of my head.

But no one could stop them from exercising their 2nd amendment rights when they planned to shoot people.  Not law enforcement, not their mental health personnel, not law enforcement.

Not only do we not have any screening that prevents dangerously mentally ill people from slaughtering innocent people in large numbers, we don't even test for the most rudimentary necessary qualities to safely and appropriately use a firearm, like the eye test we require to drive a car.

The basic rules of firearm safety require that you be able to see what you shoot at, and that you be aware of what is around and behind what you are aiming at, or you do not shoot.

Not only do we require no minimal testing or screening to own a firearm, we require no check whatsoever to privately transfer a firearm to another person.  You aren't supposed to sell or give a firearms to someone who is deranged, or a drug addict, or convicted of a crime.  But people do it all the time, and beyond that, gun owners are not required to keep their firearms secure from theft or abuse.

We have more than 3 murder suicides a week in this country, involving two or more people, where one of more of those who are killed did not want to die, often women and children.  One could argue that anyone who takes that route out of this world is at least temporarily dangerously mentally ill.  Certainly their judgment is not what we consider normal in function.

We MUST stop allowing access to firearms to override every other consideration.  It is time we stop treating lethal force as an option everyone should have, and recognize the horrific harm done by people with it, not just in homicides and suicides, or injuries, but in accidents, in intimidation in domestic violence, and other circumstances.

Civilized countries do not condone everyone having lethal weapons. It is not necessary, it is not appropriate, and it is not the case - as pro-gunners claim - that we have to accept criminals having firearms EITHER.  In other countries, firearms are not common in their crime incidents; they are the exception, not the rule. 

We shouldn't condone or allow such widespread lethal force and violence either.  There are better alternatives. But we need to begin with our gun culture, which argues against any impediment, even if it means unlimited access for the dangerously mentally ill to lethal weapons to engage in mass killings.

We have a choice, and it is time we exercised a better one than the one we have now.

I will post the second part of the interview tomorrow.  My heart aches for these parents, and for the family and friends of all those who were the victims of Andrew Engeldinger.  This should have been an avoidable tragedy.

For those readers who may not be able to easily access the recording, here is an edited transcript of the MPR News interview:

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Many lives changed the afternoon of Sept. 27 at a small but growing Minneapolis business called Accent Signage Systems.
An employee, Andrew Engeldinger, had just lost his job, and he responded by opening fire, killing six people and wounding others. He took his own life with the weapon as well.
"It is hard. We have lost our son. And we know that all these other families are suffering due to his actions and that's very hard," said Carolyn Engeldinger, who, along with her husband Chuck, spoke with MPR News.
The Engeldingers said their son had shown signs of mental illness for years.
"The person he became bore no resemblance to the son we knew and raised," she said. "He was never violent, just a normal little kid who brought us a lot of joy."
Below is an edited transcript of Cathy Wurzer's interview with the Engeldingers. The second part of the interview airs Wednesday.

Wurzer: Chuck, what do you remember about your son?
Chuck Engeldinger: He loved animals. He had a pet frog, Toadie. We celebrated birthdays together and decorated the tree together, and that got to be less enjoyable for him as time went on. I guess it's just hard to believe that things would turn around so dramatically and that it would stretch out for such a long period of time.
Wurzer: When did he start to show signs of depression as a young man?
Chuck Engeldinger: I think that what happened was that his senior year, you could see that he was gone, it almost looked like maybe he was on drugs. We didn't know, but you could see it in his eyes, kind of a lost look, a glazed look. He didn't have the happy smiles or anything. He didn't get good grades in school and he was such a high achiever. Earlier on, his circle of friends got smaller, he just didn't have a lot of ambition anymore. He just dwindled.
Wurzer: Did he get a definitive diagnosis of depression?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Once he finally got into the doctor, yes he was diagnosed with depression, and he was put on medication, which he went off of that. He said it didn't work, but I don't believe he was on it for longer than three or four weeks. And he was at that time already using alcohol and marijuana, and we don't know what else. He was exhibiting a lot of problems, a lot of distress.
Wurzer: As he became older, as he began having delusions and began acting more paranoid, according to reports, was there a particular incident where you thought he was really struggling, where you thought, this is trouble?
Chuck Engeldinger: In hindsight, I can see some of the things where he was having trouble, but we didn't know what was going on and what was real, because we were only hearing his side. So we really thought he was having trouble at work. We didn't know that it was his own mind that was malfunctioning, you know, that was bringing on these stories and stuff. Probably a couple years later he started with the paranoia, people were talking about him, they were all into it with the police and the FBI and the government were all out to get him.
Carolyn Engeldinger: That was probably the last four months we were in contact with him, where he had this delusion of some giant conspiracy that involved the government, the FBI, the police, people at work, people on the street. It involved everybody.
Chuck Engeldinger: It could have been someone walking a dog, and they were out to get him. And you just couldn't get his mind off of it. No matter what you said, he would get angry that you weren't listening to him and buying in.
Carolyn Engeldinger: It's so difficult to really pinpoint things. Our experience is it developed over a long time, or worsened, which is what happens with a catastrophic, persistent mental illness like schizophrenia, which is what we believe Andy had.
Wurzer: But he wasn't diagnosed?
Carolyn Engeldinger: He was not diagnosed. Because my mother had been diagnosed [with] paranoid schizophrenia, I was very familiar with the behaviors and attitudes. I found myself in utter frustration dealing with Andy so often. I would tell Chuck or my other children, 'he's just like my mother, he's just like my mother, he's just like my mother.' And then one day I realized, he is just like my mother. And that was such a frightening realization because you don't want one of your children to suffer in that way. Then when his delusions and hallucinations became the only thing he talked about, and they were so extreme, and he'd come into the house and immediately go to the curtains and look out and see who might be following him, it was just -- I mean, there was no way we could not believe something was really, really, really wrong, that his reality was not our reality.
Wurzer: And you kept saying to him?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Go to the doctor, go to the doctor, something's wrong. This can't be. And he would get very upset with us that we did not believe him, and it would get so awful because near the end there he was coming by the house every evening after work and sharing all this. And I would get so upset that I would just have to leave the room, because it was day after day after day, and you could not reason with him. We went to [National Alliance on Mental Illness] family-to-family class, and there we learned about the symptoms, and the course that these diseases can take. We knew for certain then that he has a very serious mental illness.
Wurzer: And this was a couple years ago?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Yes.
Wurzer: But he never was violent?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Never.
Chuck Engeldinger: Never.
Wurzer: It appears that Andrew was functioning — he had a house, he had a job. At what point did you two say, if you even did this at all, 'I've done everything I can do for you at this point'?
Chuck Engeldinger: I don't know that we ever said that. I don't think we ever said that. I did say, at one point, because it was so wearing and upsetting for him to come over day after day and just drain every ounce of energy right out of you. And when she'd leave the room and I just couldn't take it anymore, I'd just say, 'Look, you really have to see a doctor.' And of course, you know, he didn't, but you know I really believe that — I don't know, maybe it's kind of me just being hopeful or something — that he cut us off to protect us, in a way. I know it's not very likely at all.
Carolyn Engeldinger: No, no, it's not very likely at all. I think the desire to have your child in a way that you recognize him is so strong that the denial is always there. And, you know, if in fact he did have paranoid schizophrenia, which we believe he did, there's not a happy outcome for that disease.
Chuck Engeldinger: Not without treatment, anyway.
Wurzer: Which leads me to this question, because everyone, I'm sure, thinks about this: If you're seeing your loved one suffer with this severe mental illness, did you ever think about trying to commit Andy?
Chuck Engeldinger: We knew that we didn't have any say in it, because he was over 18.
Carolyn Engeldinger: Unless he proved to be a danger to himself or others, there was nothing we could do.


  1. Another Dog Gone wall of text which boils down to this: The only people who should have guns are the ones that I approve, like myself.

  2. No.

    You can skip the 'wall of text' --- we wouldn't want to strain your limited reading concentration Campy. Obviously reading is not your strong suit.

    Play the interview; most of the text is just a transcript of it.

    I just posted the concluding half of this interview here:

    This is about how the parents tried to get mental health help for their son, the terrible progress of schizophrenia from not being dangerous to oneself and others to becoming dangerous, and the tragedy of dealing with their son being a murderer.

    This is about how dangerously mentally ill people shouldn't have guns, not who one likes or dislikes.

    Or are you going to argue for the Anders Breiviks and James Holmes of our world to get more guns more easily, unchecked?
    Is that your idea of responsible, safe firearms ownership? NO?

    You have no argument? Then sit down and think up something more intelligent to write in response. Or go whittle

    1. Where did you get the idea that I didn't read it? I'm criticizing your style. You repeat yourself ad nauseum in the hopes that we'll ignore the flaws in your argument.

      What I'd like to see is a better healthcare system in this country, including mental health. Breivik is irrelevant, by the way, since he lives in a country that controls its guns as you want them controlled and since he isn't insane. American wackos who kill people, though, are rare. You're begging for more control over numbers that are statistically insignificant. Control yourself, and leave the rest of us alone.

  3. We do no mental health screening on anyone purchasing a used car (3000 pound lethal battering ram), 5 gallons of gasoline (limitless incendiary capabilities), bowling balls (massively destructive projectiles when dropped from bridges or tall buildings), welding canisters with highly flammable pressurized gases, or 50 gallon plastic barrels which, when filled with water and slowly emptied on an otherwise dry freeway on a sub-zero morning, are capable of causing 100 car pile-ups.

    There are an infinite number of ways that a person could destroy life or property. Trying to screen people is an impossible task, not to mention a task that would be fraught with inaccuracy.

    Next idea?

  4. My darling, DG, I'm so sorry you have dumb dogs and that you have no traffic at your blog and find it necessary to come here with your poopla.

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