Sergeant John Russell was convicted April 22, 2013, for second-degree murder of five military men at the Mental Health Clinic at Camp Liberty in Iraq. He will probably spend the rest of his life in a military jail. Sergeant Russell is seriously mentally ill. He wanted to kill himself, but after the horrible treatment he received from the Army’s mental system he, in a fit of rage, murdered three enlisted men and two officers. One of these officers was Navy Commander Charles “Keith” Springle, a 52-year-old with a doctorate in social work. He was the only person in the Army’s mental health system that showed Sergeant Russell any compassion, but not being a doctor, he referred Russell to a psychiatrist. In my opinion, the psychiatrist, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Jones, should be indicted for second-degree murderer as a co-conspirator in Sergeant Russell’s crime. He seriously is guilty of misconduct and misbehavior in his treatment of Russell.
What I propose is not without precedent. In France, as reported by the Psychiatric Times, psychiatrist Daniele Canarelli was convicted of multiple practitioner failures after her patient of four years Joel Gaillard murdered a man. The jury found Dr. Canarelli guilty of numerous and repeated lapses in judgment and stated that the doctor’s attitude “resembled blindness.” Patient Gaillard, while he was in treatment, perpetrated a succession of acts of aggression, each of increasing severity, which culminated in his act of murder. Dr. Jones similarly was “blind” to the growing rage and desire to kill himself that Sergeant Russell evidenced.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Jones treated his patient with what can only be described as gross incompetence and near egomaniacal belief in his own healing powers. Sergeant Russell stated to the psychiatrist that “he needed to either legitimately help me or send me back to my unit so could kill myself.” Dr. Jones, as reported by Sergeant Russell, “leaned over very close to me, put his hands on either side of my face, and declared, “You’re fixed.” This is totally unprofessional behavior. It is unbelievable that this doctor should be practicing in the Army. This is a doctor, who as reported in the Bloomberg News, six months prior to his treatment of Russell, was standing before a judge in Michigan to be tried on a DUI charge, his second offense. The judge sentenced him to a two-day jail term after Jones agreed to enter a program to help doctors overcome chemical dependencies and substance abuse. Jones’s medical license was renewed despite his substance abuse issue because he had committed to the program. It is not stated if Jones completed this program or if his deployment to Iraq allowed him to slide.
What is clear is that Russell was so enraged, harboring a rage that had been growing for a long time related to PTSD and workplace issues, that he returned to his unit grabbed a fellow serviceman’s weapon — his own weapon’s bullets had been removed by his unit commander due to Russell’s suicidal state of mind — and returned to the clinic. Through an open window he saw, Army Major Mathew Houseseal, the clinic’s lead psychiatrist, and shot him in the head. Entering the clinic, Russell found Navy Commander Springle in his office standing with his back to the doorway. He shot him twice in the back and once in the head. In a sleep therapy class, Russell gunned down three enlisted men. He followed one of these men, Yates, out the front door and put a bullet through his chin. Russell was a soldier seriously pissed off by the mental health treatment he received. Russell didn’t get Jones. Jones escaped by leaping out a window, but Jones should not escape punishment for his part in this tragedy.
This is a disaster that should not have taken place. If Russell had been diagnosed properly and given adequate treatment, five people would be alive today, and Russell would not be facing many many years in prison. After the incident, a Walter Reed Medical Center team diagnosed Sergeant Russell with chronic post-traumatic stress and a major depressive disorder with psychotic features.” Sergeant Russell, a dyslexic person, who never graduated from high school, found a home in the Army for 15 years. In Iraq he was on his third deployment, when he went berserk. Russell spent almost five years in war zones. In Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s he was “in firefights and inventoried a truckload of mutilated bodies.” On his second Iraq tour, Russell was in Ramadi during 2005 and 2006. He described “scraping my friend” off radio equipment after an improvised-explosive device was detonated in a tent. Russell nightmares were so intense that a barracks mate videotaped them. This soldier deserved better than the treatment he was given the Army’s mental health system, which was poor when he first contacted the system and culminated in the absurd treatment he was given by psychiatrist Dr. Michael Jones. It is time to hold these professionals responsible. Dr. Jones should be indicted. Maybe that will force the Army in particular to deal seriously with the problem of its mentally ill soldiers, and the psychiatric profession as a whole to deal with incompetent practitioners.