Kauffman Study – (SSRI) Drugs: More Risks Than Benefits?

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009

SSRI Bombshell by Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D. Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Drugs: More Risks Than Benefits?

Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT

Anecdotal reports have suggested that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may cause suicidal or violent behavior in some patients. Because of the publicity surrounding certain events, and the numerous lawsuits that have been filed, a review of benefits and risks is needed.

At most 30% of patients receive a benefit from SSRIs beyond the large placebo effect in certain mental conditions, especially depression, according to a recent meta-analysis of published trials. An equally recent meta-analysis of all SSRI trials submitted to the FDA showed a small benefit for the severely depressed patients only. Many early unpublished trials did not show any benefit. Adverse effects are common, occurring in up to 75% of subjects.

Severe adverse effects may be underreported.

Meta- analyses of controlled trials did not include any actual suicides or murders, but only suicidality, some finding, in 1991 and 2007, no evidence even of suicidality.

Other meta-analyses using many of the same trials found that suicidality doubled to 1 in 500 on SSRIs compared with placebo or non-SSRI antidepressants, but did not include any actual suicides or murders. The trial designs were devised by SSRI makers to prevent reports of suicides, by eliminating subjects with the slightest trace of suicidal tendencies. Retrospective studies by others showed actual suicides on SSRIs with a relative risk (RR) of 2–3 compared with non-SSRI antidepressants, with an increased incidence of 123/100,000. Lower doses than the smallest available ones were found to maintain benefits in a majority of patients while reducing risks.

table_03_zoloftbusted1

[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SSRISTORIES DATABASE REFERRED TO BY DR. KAUFFMAN IN THIS STUDY IS NO LONGER POSTED AT THE URL LISTED ABOVE BUT HAS BEEN MOVED TO THE URL www.ssristories.NET ]

No causal connection between SSRIs and suicide and/or violence has been proved; neither has it been ruled out. Physicians need to be vigilant, and aware of legal precedents that may subject them to enhanced liability when prescribing these drugs. The Genesis of SSRIs Fluoxetine (Prozac in the U.S., see Table 1), introduced in 1988 to combat depression, was the fourth selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) on the U.S. market, after being seriously considered by Eli Lilly as an antihypertensive drug. Unlike the earlier “tricyclics” (amitripyline, clomipramine, dothiepin, imipramine, etc.) and other drug classes, SSRIs acted on the brain to raise levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin without raising the levels of norepinephrine. This was thought to be a benefit in treatment of depression, and later anxiety, panic, social phobia, obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD) , and many other conditions. The SSRIs listed in Table 1 are among the most frequently prescribed in the U.S., and compete with the five non- SSRIs shown, and others.

ssri-drug-table1

Benefits of SSRIs

A prominent recent meta-analysis of Bridge et al. included 27 trials of SSRIs for three defined mental conditions: major depressive disorder (MDD), OCD, and non-OCD anxiety disorders. Benefits, compared with placebo, were found to be highly statistically significant. For MDD, data from 13 trials showed benefit in 61% vs. 50% on placebo, a gain of 11% absolute (NNT=10), <0.001 for all ages of participants. For OCD, data from six trials showed benefit in 52% vs. 32% on placebo, a gain of 20% absolute (NNT=5), <0.001 for all ages. For non-OCD anxiety, data from 6 trials showed benefit in 69% vs. 39% on placebo, a gain of 30% absolute (NNT=3), <0.001 for all ages. These results represent the maximum expectation of benefit from SSRIs since 22 of the 27 trials were financially supported by SSRI makers, and thus subject to the routinely positive bias of industry-sponsored clinical trials. Jay S. Cohen, M.D., author of the 2001 book , wrote that half his patients did well on fluoxetine, but he noted a high incidence (50%) with side-effects. Cohen also cited a pre-approval study showing that the standard 20 mg per day starting dose helped 65% of patients, while 5 mg helped 54%, so Cohen became one of the pioneers in using lower doses before Lilly made them available. The 1996 entry for paroxetine, at least, confirmed that the 17 most common side-effects were dose-dependent.

In four observational cohort studies of four common SSRIs reported by physicians as part of the prescription-event monitoring program in the UK, with more than 10,000 patients in each drug group, only 36% of the physicians reported fluvoxamine as effective, compared with 60% for fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine. These possible benefit rates, which include the placebo effect, parallel the percentage of patients remaining on the drug for 2 months.

See: Over Dose: the Case Against the Drug Companies

An old trial of placebo for anxious and depressed subjects reduced distress in 43%. Three meta-analyses of the antidepressant literature that appeared in the 1990s independently concluded that two-thirds of the effectiveness attributed to SSRIs is actually placebo effect. In a series of nine controlled studies on hospitalized patients with depression, 57% of those given placebo showed improvement in 2–6 weeks. A 1998 meta-analysis of 47 trials on antidepressant medication including SSRIs indicated that 75% of the response to them was duplicated by placebo. This meta-analysis was criticized on several grounds. Therefore, Irving Kirsch, Ph.D., of the University of Connecticut, with other authors, obtained data submitted to the FDA on every placebo-controlled clinical trial on the six most widely used SSRIs, and published a meta-analysis on 47 trials, finding a small, clinically insignificant effect.

This work was updated in 2008:

Analyses of datasets including unpublished as well as published clinical trials reveal smaller effects that fall well below recommended criteria for clinical effectiveness. Specifically, a meta-analysis of clinical trial data submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed a mean drug–placebo difference in improvement scores of 1.80 points on the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression (HRSD), whereas the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) used a drug–placebo difference of three points as a criterion for clinical significance when establishing guidelines for the treatment of depression in the United Kingdom. Kirsch et al. concluded that the updated findings from 35 carefully vetted trials suggest that, compared with placebo, the four new- generation antidepressants ( fluoxetine, venlfaxine, nefazodone, and paroxetine) do not produce clinically significant improvements in depression in patients who initially have moderate or even severe depression.

They show statistically significant but clinically minor effects only in the most severely depressed patients. Moreover, the significance of the effect probably is based on a decreased responsiveness to placebo, rather than increased responsiveness to medication. Given these results, the researchers conclude that there is little reason to prescribe new- generation antidepressant medications to any but the most severely depressed patients unless alternative treatments have been ineffective. In addition, they write that the decreased placebo response in extremely depressed patients, combined with a response to antidepressants comparable to that of less severely depressed patients, is a potentially important insight that should be investigated further.

Even these unimpressive findings exaggerated the benefits of antidepressants. In three fluoxetine trials and in the three sertraline trials for which data were reported, the protocol allowed replacement of patients who, in the investigators’ judgment, were not improving after 2 weeks. The trials also included a 1–2 week washout period, during which patients were given a placebo prior to randomization. Those whose scores improved 20% or more were excluded from the study. In 25 trials, the use of other psychoactive medication was reported. In most trials, a chloral hydrate sedative was permitted in doses ranging from 500 mg to 2,000 mg per day. Other psychoactive medication was usually prohibited but still reported as having been taken in several trials.

Perhaps such considerations led David Healy, M.D., an SSRI expert, to his conclusion that “…these drugs do not convincingly work….” His evidence came from early unpublished clinical trials whose results were revealed to him at FDA hearings. For fluoxetine, Healy noted four trials with a positive result and four without. For sertraline, only one of five early studies showed benefit. Because of the huge placebo effect, 32–75%, most physicians unfamiliar with the studies revealing this effect are likely, in my opinion, to say that one-third to two-thirds of their patients are improved on SSRIs. This would also explain Dr. Jay S. Cohen’s findings on lower doses of fluoxetine.

SSRIs reportedly interact with 40 other drugs to cause “serotonin syndrome.”

This presents as twitching, tremors, rigidity, fever, confusion, or agitation. Serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) also may cause serotonin syndrome by interactions. Most tricyclic depressants do not have these interactions, with the exception of amitriptyline.

In a controlled trial of paroxetine vs. clomipramine sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, 75% of the subjects had an adverse effect on paroxetine, 21% had a severe adverse effect, and 13% committed a suicidal act (1 in 8). The 1996 entry for paroxetine lists 17 side-effects with an incidence of ≥ 5% for approved doses.

They are: asthenia, sweating, constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea (up to 15%), dry mouth (up to 21%), nausea (up to 36%), anxiety, dizziness, nervousness, paresthesia, somnolence (up to 22%), tremor (up to 15%), blurred vision, abnormal ejaculation, impotence, and other male genital disorders. Fully 31 additional side effects with an incidence at least 1% greater than placebo were listed, including uncontrollable yawning.

Murder, suicide, and suicidality were NOT [emphasis added] included.

Nor were they on comparable lists for fluvoxamine, or sertraline. For fluvoxamine, suicide were separately listed as “infrequent.”

For fluoxetine, suicidal ideation was listed as a voluntary report not proved to be drug related. For sertraline, suicidal ideation and attempt were listed separately as “infrequent.”

The entry for venlafaxine was: “…the possibility of a suicide attempt is inherent in depression.” Not found in the was weight gain, which Cohen lists as a serious side effect.

Typical dropout rates in recent trials are claimed to be 5% (see below), but these must be short trials, or trials with a run-in period. In a meta-analysis of 62 earlier trials with a total of 6,000 subjects, the mean total dropout rate and the proportion of dropouts due to side effects appear comparable to results in general practice: total dropout rates of between 30% and 70% have been reported by 6 weeks, of which some 30%–40% are attributed to side effects and the rest to failure of treatment. Early findings of severe adverse effects by SSRI makers came to light only after the class was established. Of 53 healthy volunteer studies on fluoxetine, the results of only 12 were openly reported.

From 35 healthy volunteer studies on paroxetine, pre-launch, the results of only 14 appeared. From 35 pre-launch healthy volunteer studies on sertraline, only seven appeared. Among the unpublished trials, there was one in which all volunteers dropped out because of agitation (akathisia). In published work on sertraline, data excluded material on behavioral toxicity, including at least one suicide of a Adverse Effects of healthy volunteer, and in a different trial, 2 of 20 volunteers became intensely suicidal. This last is consistent with the dropout rate of 5% for agitation alone in actual trials. It is also consistent with Lilly’s animal studies, in which previously friendly cats treated with fluoxetine started growling and hissing—an unheeded warning.

Just a year after fluoxetine was introduced, Bill Forsyth of Maui, Hawaii, had taken it for only 12 days when he committed one of the first murder/suicides attributed to any SSRI.

In the same year Joseph Wesbecker killed eight others and himself in a Louisville, Ky., printing plant where he worked, after 4 weeks on fluoxetine. Yet as early as 1986, clinical trials showed a rate of 12.5 suicides per 1,000 subjects on fluoxetine vs. 3.8 on older non-SSRIs vs. 2.5 on placebo! An internal 1985 Lilly document found even worse results and said that benefits were less than risks. Such documents were released into the public domain by Lilly as part of the settlement in the Wesbecker case. Fifteen more “anecdotes” of murder/suicide, three with sertraline, were listed by DeGrandpre.

Lilly’s denials of a link to murder/suicide on national television and elsewhere cited a sponsored meta-analysis in in 1991, which exonerated fluoxetine as a cause of suicidal acts or thoughts without even mentioning actual murder or suicide. This study included only 3,067 patients of the 26,000 in the clinical trials it utilized. None of the trials had a declared endpoint of suicidality.

Some of the trials had been rejected by the FDA. No mention was made that Lilly had had benzodiazepines co-prescribed to minimizethe agitation that had been recognized with fluoxetine alone. The 5% dropout rate for anxiety and agitation (akathisia) would have taken out the most likely candidates for suicide. Nevertheless, the 1991 study had its intended effect. For example, in 2006 a 900-page tome entitled , which was aimed at attorneys, cited this study, and failed lawsuits concerning SSRIs. The 2007 meta-analysis by Bridge et al. may be influenced by indirect conflicts of interest that are hard to prove based on the financial disclosures.

Their paper pooled excess risk above placebo for “suicidal ideation/suicide attempt” from 27 trials. The excess risk was said to be 0.7% and statistically significant across all indications, but significant within each indication. Of the 27 trials, only five were sponsored by the drug maker, and one of these, the 2004 Treatment for Adolescents with Depression (TADS) study of fluoxetine, had the highest rate of suicidality—7% above placebo. Most of the same trials were used in a meta-analysis by the FDA, which found a statistically significant excess risk of 2% (4% vs. 2% on placebo, 1 in 50 more). Bridge et al. used a random-effects calculation, while the FDA used a fixed-effects calculation.

In commenting on the negative findings, Bridge et al. write: “No study [in our meta-analysis] was designed to examine suicidal ideation/suicide attempt as a study outcome, and in fact most trials were conducted in patients who had been carefully screened to exclude youths at risk.” No actual murders or suicides associated with SSRI use were reported. Did the designs of the studies preclude detection or reporting?

The Bridge meta-analysis was not just a vindication of SSRIs, as communicated to the by Gilbert Ross, M.D., Medical Director of the American Council on Science & Health. Ross went further, commenting that the FDA “Black Box warning” (see below) was counterproductive because it was discouraging the use of antidepressants! Ross speculated that the lethal rampage of the Virginia Tech shooter might have resulted from premature cessation of medications.

SSRIs in general have long lifetimes in the body. Fluoxetine and its active metabolite in particular have a half-life of 16 days, according to the 1996 . In a reexamination of trials in which suicides or attempts during the inadequate washout period were not blamed on the drug, it was shown that the relative risk (RR) of suicidal acts ranged from 3 for sertraline to 10 for fluoxetine.

A concurrent meta-analysis of 24 trials by Kaizar et al. utilized Bayesian statistics, a valid choice, in my opinion, because data do not have to follow a Gaussian or normal curve to yield valid results, and this method can be used to revise probabilities to determine whether a specific effect was due to a specific cause. They found an association between SSRI use and suicidality with odds ratios of 2.3 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3-3.8), when the diagnosis was MDD, not OCD, anxiety, nor ADHD. Non-SSRI antidepressants were said to have no association with suicide. This supports the FDA’s findings and requirement, as of October, 2004, for a Black Box warning for all SSRIs, to monitor children and adolescents for suicidality. Kaizar et al. were concerned that there were no completed suicides among 4,487 subjects in the trials; that the trial times were too short at median length of 8 weeks; and that in 10 of the 12 MDD studies, Again, there was no citation of actual suicides associated with SSRIs and no citation of Healy’s work.

Healy reviewed epidemiologic studies that have been cited to exonerate SSRIs. One was analyzed by Healy to show a threefold increase in suicidality compared with other antidepressants.While “treatment-related activation” has been considered primarily with regard to suicidality, it can lead to harm to others as well as to self. Healy summarized data on “hostile episodes” provided by GlaxoSmithKline from placebo-controlled trials with paroxetine in subjects of all ages: 9,219 on paroxetine and 6,455 on placebo. The rubric of “hostility” was used in the trial to code for aggression and violence, including homicide, homicidal acts, and homicidal ideation, as well as aggressive events and “conduct disorders.” No homicides were reported from these trials.

Overall, during both therapy and withdrawal, the RR was 2.1 for hostile events. In children with OCD the RR was 17. Separately, in healthy volunteer studies, hostile events occurred in 3 of 271 subjects on paroxetine vs. none of 138 on placebo. In trials of sertraline on depressed children submitted by Pfizer, 8 of 189 subjects discontinued for aggression, agitation, or hyperkinesis (a coding term for akathisia), compared with 0 of 184 on placebo. In clinical practice, the term akathisia has been restricted to demonstrable motor restlessness, but if that is the only effect, it would have been called dyskinesia according to Healy, who cites four studies linking akathisia to both suicide and homicide.

Actual suicides were combined with suicide attempts in a 2005 meta-analysis of 702 trials of SSRIs vs. either placebo or an active non-SSRI control. Studies were rejected if the citation was a review, a result of duplicate publication, too short, crossover, or had no reporting of actual or attempted suicide. The studies meeting the criteria included 88,000 patients. For attempted suicide, the RR was 2.3 for SSRIs vs. placebo (95% CI, 1.14-4.55). The number needed to treat to harm (sometimes called the “reverse NNT”) was 1 in 684. There was no difference in actual suicide. Of the 702 trials, 104 failed to report adverse events below a certain pre-set limit of 3%, 5%, or 10% of patients. Only 493 trials reported dropout rates, with a mean of 29%, and the mean follow-up time was only 11 weeks. Thus, there was clearly gross underreporting of adverse effects. PDR children and adolescents with an elevated baseline risk of suicide were excluded.

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009 9

More importantly, because actual suicides are involved, Healy cited a study by Donovan et al. that demonstrated a RR=3.4 ( <0.01) for SSRIs compared with all non-SSRI antidepressants involving 222 actual suicides, of which 41 were among patients who had an SSRI within a month of their suicide. Also the British Drug Safety Research Unit recorded more than 110 suicides in 50,000 patients taking an SSRI, an incidence of 219/100,000 compared with 96/100,000 for the non-SSRI mirtazepine (Remeron), an increase of 123/100,000, or 1 in 813 (Table 2). Thus the RR for actual suicide in patients taking SSRIs was 2.3 (or 2.8 for paroxetine). Even here, though, no murders were listed.

In another study cited by Healy, Jick et al. reported 143 actual suicides among 172,598 patients taking antidepressants. The relative risk of suicide in patients taking fluoxetine was 2.1, compared with those taking the tricyclic antidepressant dothiepin. The risk was not age-dependent. SSRI makers keep insisting that there will be more suicides if SSRIs are used as frequently as now. But the RR of 2–3 shown in studies is a number that the number of suicides that may have been prevented, so SSRI use is associated with more suicides, not fewer.

The International Coalition for Drug Awareness in cooperation with the Prozac Survivors Support Group has produced a website on which about 1,600 violent incidents associated with SSRI use are described ( www.ssristories.net ). The first column on the type of incident (murder, school shooting, etc.) is a hot link to a publicly available description of the incident, typically a local newspaper article. A selection of 10 entries (rows) is presented here as Table 3. About 360 suicides are tallied as well as about 400 murder incidents, many of which were multiple murders, each linked to 26 not net includesSSRIs Provide 1,600 Anecdotes of Violence SSRI use (Rosie Meysenburg, personal communication, 2008 .

As the number of “anecdotes” exceeds 1,600—hardly a small number—the association of SSRIs with murder/suicide, often combined, must be taken seriously. The SSRI website was searched to find combined murder/suicide incidents attributed to a specific SSRI. There were three for fluvoxamine, four for citalopram, 10 each for paroxetine and sertraline, and 31 for fluoxetine. Where the studies above substantiated suicide from SSRI use, the total on the SSRI website of 48 simultaneous murder/suicide incidents associated with SSRI use ties together SSRIs and murder. Since there were about two murders per suicide, we may infer that the murder rate on SSRIs could be about 250/100,000. Since no clinical trial involving multiple homicides is ever likely to be run, no firmer evidence is likely to be found. Healy noted that much of the evidence for suicide and murder came from the efforts of journalists and lawyers.
Note that the website carries a prominent warning that “withdrawal can often be more dangerous than continuing on a medication.” Nine violent events cited elsewhere—seven court cases of homicide (one attempted) and two assaults—were associated with specific SSRIs: three with paroxetine, three with sertraline, two with fluoxetine, and one with venlafaxine. Skeptics have cast doubt on whether the prescribed SSRIs were actually taken, especially since many medical records of juveniles were sealed. In the Columbine, Colo., shootings the toxicology report showed “therapeutic” levels of fluvoxamine in one of the shooters. The Red Lake, Minn., shooter had fluoxetine found, according to news items referenced on the website.

A 2004 editorial in by Simon Wessely, M.D., a spokes- man for Eli Lilly, and Robert Kerwin, Ph.D, cited only a single paper by Healy as a source of claims of suicidality that have found a receptive media audience. Tellingly, the only study described at length is by Jick et al. on the correlation of SSRI use and “attempted suicide,” in which the rates on dothiepin, amitriptyline, fluoxetine and paroxetine were not statistically different. Actual suicides in this study (seven on SSRIs) were not mentioned by Wessely and Kerwin, nor were the 143 suicides in Jick’s earlier paper. Jick et al. have been supported partially by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. No study that reported actual suicides on SSRIs was described in detail, let alone refuted. Wessely and Kerwin wrote: “The problem is that depression is unequivocally and substantially associated with suicide and self-harm.” True, but this not the truth.

Table 2. Suicides Related to SSRIs or Mirtazapine

table_02_zoloftbusted1

The legal defense by Lilly, repeated by the media and others, is that any suicides are caused by the condition, depression, not by their drug—whether the violence is associated with short-term drug use, long-term drug use, increased doses, withdrawal, or rechallenge. There is no website, as far as I know, for violent acts committed by persons who never received SSRIs, or for total violent acts; hence the denominator for violent acts is not known. Also unknown is the fraction of potentially violent persons who are treated with SSRIs, or of persons treated with SSRIs who are potentially violent. The published studies on actual suicide, however, compare patients on SSRIs with similar patients on non- SSRI antidepressants or placebo. Children diagnosed with OCD, not depression, also became suicidal on SSRIs, as did healthy volunteers.

Actual two- to threefold increases in suicide rates have been demonstrated as well as they could be. How else could such effects be demonstrated? Who would submit, and what institutional review board or human subjects committee would approve a study explicitly designed to show whether assaultive, homicidal, or other violent behavior increases in subjects prescribed the study drug?

Denial by SSRI makers of culpability for these risks continues to this day. Whether physicians’ acting on the Black Box warnings of 2004 and 2007 for all SSRIs will diminish the incidence of murders and suicides is not yet known. Following the introduction of fluoxetine in 1988, only a year passed before an early user committed multiple murders and suicide; many other examples followed. More than 200 lawsuits have been begun by users of SSRIs and victims’ families charging wrongful death or failure to warn; these have had mixed outcomes. There is now legal precedent for SSRIs as a cause of murder, and the maker of the SSRI is potentially liable for damages, according to David Healy.

Eli Lilly responded with total denial to the lawsuits claiming a link between fluoxetine and violence. Several claims were settled out of court with secret details and no admission of guilt. The Australian David Hawkins was freed from a murder charge by a finding of temporary insanity caused by using sertraline. Tim Tobin of Wyoming won $6.4 million from SmithKline Beecham when a jury found that a murder/suicide committed by Donald Schell was attributable to use of paroxetine. There are four other homicide cases in which the SSRI was deemed to have contributed, resulting in a suspended sentence in one case and an insanity verdict in another.

One case of homicide, with a guilty verdict and a life sentence, followed a judicial ruling that akathisia was associated with SSRI use, but that a causal relationship with homicide could not be argued; thus the link of an SSRI with homicide was disallowed. This was in direct conflict with the findings of the four trials cited above. The SSRI website was searched to find murders related to a specific SSRI whose perpetrators were acquitted based on temporary SSRI-induced insanity. There were two cases with sertraline, four cases with paroxetine, and four cases with fluoxetine. So a precedent has been established for legal recognition that an SSRI can be a cause for murder, and that the drug maker can be found liable for damages. The notices of suicidality for the SSRIs found in the PDR or package inserts before 2004 did not really warn of actual suicide or murder.

200 SSRI-related Lawsuits

The Black Box warning of 2004 about possible suicide in children under 18 years of age did not cover adults or murder at any age, so potential liability for the SSRI makers still exists. In 2007 the warning was extended to persons under age 25 years. David Healy was quoted as saying that the warning was overdue, and that the risk was not likely to disappear above age 25. This was shown by the trials from GlaxoSmithKline on paroxetine cited above.

Antidepressants are extraordinarily difficult to assess for risks or benefits in trials. At most, 11%–30% of patients with depression or related conditions who take SSRIs actually benefited beyond the placebo effect on normal doses. Of the perceived benefit, 32%–67% can be attributed to the placebo effect. Adverse effects, mostly dose-dependent, will appear in up to 75% of patients on normal doses. Of these, studies suggest that suicidality will be observed in an additional 2%–13% (1 in 50 to 1 in 9) of patients on normal doses, beyond what is seen on placebo or many non-SSRI antidepressant drugs. This is sufficiently frequent that a typical prescribing physician should observe examples in routine practice.

The actual suicide rate could be about 123/100,000 (1 in 813) higher in patients on SSRIs than in those on tricyclics or placebo. Studies show that many more suicides are on normal doses of SSRIs beyond what is seen on placebo or many non-SSRI antidepressant drugs. Available data suggest that actual murders may be committed at about the rate of 250/100,000 (1 in 400) SSRI-treated patients beyond what is seen on placebo or many non-SSRI antidepressantdrugs, and that many more murders will be attempted on normal doses as well. While correlation does not prove causation, and results of court trials are not medical science, the data for suicide are solid, and the association of murder with suicide is very suggestive. Now that there is a stronger Black Box warning, physicians who ignore it may be liable for damages; the warning primarily protects the manufacturers of SSRIs. There is obviously great peril in drawing conclusions about causat i on from press report s or court decisions.

While manufacturers have a vested interest in exonerating their drugs, plaintiffs have an interest in blaming it, and defendants in exonerating themselves. We need careful, independent analysis of existing study data. In addition to randomized controlled trials, evidence from basic science ( neuropharmacology) and challenge/dechallenge/rechallenge investigations needs to be sought. Both the public and individual patients are imperiled by an incorrect answer to the pressing questions about these widely prescribed drugs. Future studies may show lower levels of murder and suicide with close supervision, and with better matching of this drug type to patient type.

Conclusionsattemptedsimultaneous
Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D.

Acknowledgements:
Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D., professor of chemistry emeritus at the
University of the Sciences, 600 S. 43rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495,
Contact: kauffman@bee.net.

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Frances E. H. Pane edited the manuscript. David Moncrief piqued my interest by providing a review copy of by Richard DeGrandpre.
The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World’s Most Troubled Drug Culture

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009 11
Potential conflicts of interest: The author has neither a financial interest in any drug mentioned, nor in any alternate treatments for treating any mental illness.

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Donovan S, Kelleher MJ, Lambourn J, Foster T. The occurrence of suicide following the prescription of antidepressant drugs.1999;5:181-192.

Jick SS, Dean AD, Jick H. Antidepressants and suicide.1995;310:215-218.

Wessely S, Kerwin R. Suicide risk and SSRIs. 2004;292:379-381.

Jick H, Kaye JA, Jick SS. Antidepressants and the risk of suicidal behaviors. 2004;292:338-343.

Carey B. FDA expands suicide warning on drugs. ,May 3, 2007:A17.

J Am Acad Child Psychiatry BMJPsychother PsychosomPLoS Med
BMJ

Drug Injury:Liability, Analysis and Prevention.

Wall Street Journal,Br J Psychiatry Clinical Trials

Basic Business Statistics: Concepts and Applications J Psychiatry Neuroscience

New York Times:Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009

USA Trade Name Generic Name:
SSRIs
Celexa
Luvox
Paxil
Prozac
Zoloft
non-SSRIs
Effexor
Remeron
Serzone
Wellbutrin
(UK)
citalopram
fluvoxamine
paroxetine
fluoxetine
sertraline
venlafaxine
mirtazapine
nefazodone
bupropion
dothiepin USA Trade Name Generic Name
SSRIs
Celexa
Luvox
Paxil
Prozac
Zoloft
non-SSRIs
Effexor
Remeron
Serzone
Wellbutrin
(UK)
citalopram
fluvoxamine
paroxetine
fluoxetine
sertraline
venlafaxine
mirtazapine
nefazodone
bupropion
dothiepin

Physicians Desk Reference (PDR)
Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D.
Table 1. Commonly Prescribed SSRIs and Other Antidepressants Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Drugs:
More Risks Than Benefits?

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009 7 Physicians Desk Reference (PDR)
Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D.
Table 1. Commonly Prescribed SSRIs and Other Antidepressants Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Drugs:
More Risks Than Benefits?

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009 7

JAMAwhole12,69210,98313,74112,73450,15013,554

10 dead, 7 wounded: dosage increased one week before rampage
15 year old shoots two teachers, killing one: then kills himself
Columbine High School: 15 dead, 24 wounded
Four dead, twenty injured after Prozac withdrawal
Teen shoots at two students: kills his father
Jury finds Paxil was cause of murder-suicide
Man cleared of charges due to Paxil withdrawal defense
Not guilty by reason of Prozac induced insanity: mother kills daughter
Nine dead, 12 wounded in workplace shooting
11 year old hangs himself: lawsuit

Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2009

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DEPRESSION MED: Woman Stabs To Death A Man On A Stairwell: Australia

Paragraph three reads:  “Defence solicitor Bernie Balmer said Epshtein was on medication for anxiety, bipolar, depression, pain and one to lower her heart rate.”

http://www.theage.com.au/national/woman-in-court-over-stabbing-murder-20090803-e6l0.html

Woman in court over stabbing murder

Steve Butcher

August 3, 2009 – 12:04PM

A 21-year-old woman charged with the stabbing murder last week of a man in a St Kilda stairwell has appeared in court.

A lawyer for Natasha Epshtein told Melbourne Magistrates Court today his client had been treated by two doctors for five separate health conditions.

Defence solicitor Bernie Balmer said Epshtein was on medication for anxiety, bipolar, depression, pain and one to lower her heart rate.

Epshtein appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Dan Muling in a low-cut, black t-shirt with close-cropped hair and tattoos on her upper chest.

She is charged with murdering Peter James Len on July 30.

Mr Balmer said she would consent to a DNA sample being taken at a later date.

She was remanded to appear again on November 30.

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DEPRESSION MED: Woman Assaults a Deputy Sheriff: Colorado

Paragraqphs two and three read:  “Tanya Eliz Moschetti, 42, 1253 12 1/2 Road, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault on a peace officer, third-degree assault and criminal mischief after deputies received a report of a possible overdose at her house and were told she was running around the house naked and breaking things, according to an arrest affidavit.”

“When deputies arrived, they noted Moschetti, who was standing outside and cursing at a man inside, was slurring her speech and had a distant gaze in her eyes. She said she was taking medication for depression.”

http://www.gjsentinel.com/hp/content/news/police/stories/2009/08/02/080309_3a_Blotter.html

Police blotter: August 3, 2009

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Assault suspect arrested

A Loma woman was arrested Saturday after she allegedly assaulted a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a domestic disturbance at her house, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department said.

Tanya Eliz Moschetti, 42, 1253 12 1/2 Road, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault on a peace officer, third-degree assault and criminal mischief after deputies received a report of a possible overdose at her house and were told she was running around the house naked and breaking things, according to an arrest affidavit.

When deputies arrived, they noted Moschetti, who was standing outside and cursing at a man inside, was slurring her speech and had a distant gaze in her eyes. She said she was taking medication for depression.

At one point, Moschetti tried to re-enter the house and struck a deputy on the arm when he tried to stop her.

Deputies arrested Moschetti and booked her into Mesa County Jail.

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ANTIDEPRESSANTS: FT CARSON Soldier (Freeman) Attempted Murder

Freeman said the hospital staff prescribed him antidepressants and told him they were so busy that he wouldn’t receive counseling for a month.

A few weeks later, on Feb. 22, 2006, Freeman got in a fight with a man he had never met, Kenneth Tatum, in the China Express restaurant on B Street. Freeman pulled out his .357 and, before he knew it, he said, Tatum was bleeding on the ground. He had shot him through the thigh.

Freeman was arrested for attempted murder and pleaded guilty to felony menacing. He served two years and got out in January. He is unemployed, living at his mother’s house in Alabama. He said he still has headaches and memory problems and is getting therapy for PTSD at a nearby Veterans Affairs hospital.

Because of his crime, he is not eligible for most Army benefits.

“I was a good soldier before this,” he said. “Now I’m a screwed-up Iraq vet with a felony conviction. I don’t have many prospects. I was good at what I did in the infantry. . . . Too bad it followed me home.”

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Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

Comments 118 | Recommend 56

July 26, 2009 3:30 PM
THE GAZETTE

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraqeight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor’s Note)

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments — military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war — but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” Graham said in a June interview. “There is a culture and a stigma that need to change.”

Under his command, nearly everyone — from colonels to platoon sergeants — is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can’t leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers’ transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

“The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, ‘What makes the grass grow?’ and we would yell, ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’ as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. … If they don’t figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening.”

Satan’s throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

“It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees,” said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, “the situation was ugly.”

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father’s antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, “Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance.”

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, “that’s where you get to do all the awesome stuff.”

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

“We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for,” Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like “Satan had punched a hole in the Earth’s surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop.”

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors — sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper’s bullet killed Marquez’s lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson — double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge’s platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

“First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies,” Eastridge said. “Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads.”

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge’s battalion was created in World War II and became known as the “Band of Brothers.” It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-’em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

“It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got,” said Marquez’s friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and “just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

“It was just a free-for-all,” said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.”

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff’s deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to “rough up” Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and “tore that neighborhood up.”

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend’s blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

“They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead,” he said this spring, shaking his head, “then just started shooting.”

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn’t make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

Marquez’s sister, who was visiting, didn’t want to see the president because she was so angry about the war and her brother’s wounds, but Marquez was honored.

“I had gotten hurt, but it is part of the job. I wasn’t mad at nobody,” Marquez said.

He was in the hospital for three months and had 17 surgeries so he could keep his leg. Marquez was being medically discharged from the Army and could have stayed at the hospital, but he transferred to Fort Carson on Sept. 13, 2005, to spend his remaining months with his war buddies, who had just returned from Iraq.

He eventually learned to walk without a cane, but other wounds proved harder to heal. He started having nightmares about the war. He felt worthless and crippled, depressed and angry. On a visit home to California, he made his mom put away all his high school sports trophies.

The only things that made him feel better were the pain pills the doctors prescribed for him — and only if he took too many.

‘Kumbaya period’

Post-traumatic stress disorder is like a roadside bomb.

The symptoms can remain hidden for months, then explode. They can cripple some soldiers and leave others untouched. And just like bombs disguised as trash or ruts in the road, PTSD can look like something else.

In many cases, it looks like a bad soldier. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, Army studies say, symptoms can include heavy drinking, drug use, domestic violence, slacking off at work or disobeying orders.

You can often see it coming, said the most recent commanding general of Fort Carson, if you know what to look for.

Soldiers usually go through a jubilant high for a few months after they come home, Graham said. He calls this time “the Kumbaya period.”

“Soldiers have served their country, they’ve made it back, they’re home. It’s all great. It’s later that problems start to surface,” Graham said.

Usually, problems don’t show up for three to six months, he said.

When the brigade landed in Colorado Springs, most soldiers had spent a year in Iraq and a year in South Korea. Most had saved several thousand dollars. Many were old enough to legally drink in the United States for the first time. They had survived the worst of Iraq, and they were jonesing to blow off steam.

All they had to do was go through a few post-deployment debriefings that Fort Carson still uses.

Soldiers sit through classes that warn them that troops often have unrealistically rosy notions of home. They are told to be understanding with spouses and loved ones. They are cautioned to be careful with drinking and driving, and they are warned that the time for carrying a gun everywhere ended in Iraq.

All personal guns must be stored in the post’s armory — not in soldiers’ barracks, not in their cars and not tucked in their belts.

Then Fort Carson screens every soldier for PTSD and other combat-related problems.

If there are no red flags, the soldier can go on leave. If there are, they are referred for further diagnosis, officials at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital said.

The screening asks soldiers a long list of questions about the deployment: Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you depressed? Did you clear houses or bunkers? Were you shot at? Did you witness brutality toward detainees? Did you have friends who were killed?

“Did you shoot people? Did you kill people? Did you see dead civilians? Did you see dead Americans? Did you see dead babies? No. No. No. No.” Eastridge said, mimicking how he answered the questionnaire.

“I had seen and done all that stuff, but you just lie to get it over with.”

Several soldiers said the same: They lied because they didn’t want the hassle of more screening.

When the young infantrymen were set free in Colorado Springs, many packed Tejon Street bars such as Rendezvous Lounge and Rum Bay. When the bars closed, soldiers said, they often picked fights in the street.

By 2006, the police were being called to break up bar brawls almost every night. Extra police were assigned to the area.

The Colorado Springs Police Department doesn’t track the crime statistics of individual units, but according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, jail bookings of military personnel as a whole increased 66 percent in the 12 months after the brigade returned.

The “Kumbaya period” lasted about six months, soldiers said.

Eastridge said he blew through almost $27,000, mostly drinking at bars, but the first thing he did was buy guns: pistols, shotguns and an assault rifle similar to the one he carried in Iraq.

“After being in Iraq, it feels like everyone is the enemy,” he said. “You feel like you need a gun so they don’t come to get you.”

His friends all felt the same way.

Nash slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Butler kept a Glock .40-caliber with him all the time, even when he rocked his newborn baby.

Marquez bought three pistols, a riot-style shotgun and an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. He carried a pistol constantly, he said, even when he went to church.

His buddy, Freeman, said he bought himself a “big, scary” snub-nose .357 revolver.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without it,” he said. “I took it to the mall. I took it to the bank. I even had it right next to me when I took a shower. It makes you feel powerful, less scared. You have to have it with you every second of every day.”

Some returning soldiers, especially those with family members to notice their behavior, went into counseling.

More than 200 Fort Carson soldiers have been referred to First Choice Counseling Center, a private counseling service in Colorado Springs. Davida Hoffman, the director, said her counselors were unprepared for what they heard.

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”

In units that have seen the toughest combat in Iraq, one in four soldiers can screen positive for PTSD, the director of psychiatry at Walter Reed, Dr. Charles Hoge, said in an e-mail interview.

“Many soldiers continue to be able to perform their duties very well despite having significant symptoms,” Hoge wrote. But others show what he called “serious impairment,” and the worse the combat and the longer units are exposed, the worse the effects.

The affliction is as old as war itself.

Eric Dean, an author in Connecticut who specializes in war’s psychological toll, reviewed records from the Civil War for his 1997 book, “Shook Over Hell,” and found the same surge of crime and suicide that Fort Carson has seen.

“They have been in every war,” he said. “They never readjusted. They ended up living alone, drinking too much.”

They were “the lost generation” of World War I. They are the veterans of Vietnam who disproportionately populate homeless shelters and prisons today.

The psychological casualties may be particularly heavy in Iraq, he said.

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ANTIDEPRESSANTS, ETC: FT CARSON Soldier (Eastridge) Multiple Murders

Eastridge showed up for duty shortly before the brigade shipped out. He was happy to be there. He never felt more alive than when he was in a war zone.

“It’s almost like a religious experience to see a battlefield,” he said. “To hear the explosions — to see a person bleeding out and die — see everything on fire and smell the smoke and burning flesh. It makes you truly realize what it is to be alive. Combat is the biggest rush you can have.”

Since the start of his first deployment, he had covered himself in tattoos.

On his arm was a memorial to his sergeant killed by a car bomb. On his wrists were red dotted “kill lines” marking where, if needed, he could slit them. On his arm were the twin lightning bolts of the Nazi SS. Wrapping his neck like a collar were the words “BORN TO KILL, READY TO DIE.”

If the Army had followed its own rules, he would not have returned to Iraq for another tour.

Army regulations bar anyone with a pending felony from deploying.

Eastridge was awaiting trial for putting a gun to his girlfriend’s head. He said his commanders knew it.

But when the young soldier showed up and begged his sergeant to let him go back to Iraq, they did. The Army was evasive about if, and why, commanders knowingly deployed Eastridge with a felony hanging over his head.

Eastridge said there was a reason the unit wanted him back. He was one of the best gunners in the battalion.

Soldiers said he was “surgical” with a machine gun and utterly fearless.

“He was really good. If I had 10 Eastridges, my job would be a lot easier,” said his platoon sergeant, Michael Cardenaz.

Eastridge had the most kills of anyone in his company, Cardenaz said.

He was exactly the type of soldier to have in the Heart of Darkness.

Not even the veterans were prepared for how bad Baghdad would be, Eastridge said.

At one point, the unit was losing a soldier a day to the hospital or the morgue.

At first, Eastridge said, he enjoyed the intensity of it. He had a competition going with Bressler to see who could kill more bad guys. His final count, he said — and his sergeant confirmed — was about 80.

But after a few months, the raids, gore and constant threat of roadside bombs started to get to him. He couldn’t sleep. He was on edge all the time. Doctors at the base diagnosed him with PTSD, depression, anxiety and a sleep disorder. They gave him antidepressants and sleeping pills and put him back on duty.

When he went back to the doctors a few weeks later saying the pills were not working, his medical records show, they doubled his dose.

In the spring of 2007, as part of the surge to take back Baghdad, the 500 Lethal Warriors were moved out of their central base into 100-soldier Combat Outposts, known as COPs, scattered in the neighborhoods.

“Once we got to the COPS, it was way worse,” Eastridge said. “We would have mortars and rocket fire and drive-bys every single day.”

. . . Often, his squad would come in from an all-night mission, pull off their body armor, get attacked and have to slap their armor right back on and go out. Sometimes, he said, they wouldn’t sleep for days.

Eastridge’s Iraqi translator introduced him to Valium as a way to relax. At first, he would just take a couple before missions. Then he was taking a couple all the time. Then he was taking a lot more.

Eastridge started to crumble around the same time.

He had been a decorated soldier during his first tour. But in the second, his judgment melted away.

He started searching medicine cabinets for Valium while raiding houses.

Then he started stealing cash and weapons from civilians, which he said he would sell back to the Shiite militia.

He was disciplined by his battalion for stealing once, he said, after he ransacked a house, but only because it belonged to a well-connected man. Most of the time, he got away with it.

He was disciplined again when he flipped out on patrol. Someone shot at his squad from a nearby farmhouse. Eastridge fired about 20 grenades into the house, then stormed in and said he found a farmer and his two dogs in the back and spotted a shell casing from an AK-47 on the ground.

Eastridge demanded to know where the shooter was.

The man said he didn’t know.

Eastridge shot one of the man’s dogs, then asked where the shooter was.

The man said he didn’t know.

Eastridge shot the man’s other dog.

His lieutenant told him he needed to cool off and go sit in the truck.

On the way out, Eastridge passed the man’s herd of a dozen goats. He leveled them with a machine gun. Then he ordered a private to shoot the man’s two cows. Then he shot his horse.

“I was really (expletive deleted) losing it,” Eastridge said, shaking his head.

The Army hasn’t supplied disciplinary records for Eastridge or several other soldiers requested under the Freedom of Information Act, but Eastridge’s account was confirmed by his platoon sergeant.

Eastridge went on one more mission.

He was the gunner manning the M240 machine gun on a Humvee — a big gun that shoots 600 rounds per minute. He said he was ordered to guard the street while the rest of his platoon searched a house.

Eastridge said he told his lieutenant he was going to kill people as soon as the officer was out of sight. Then he asked the driver to put some heavy-metal “killin’ music on.”

His lieutenant laughed and walked off, Eastridge said.

Families were out playing soccer and barbecuing. Eastridge said he just started shooting. He pumped a long burst of rounds into a big palm tree where a few old men had gathered in the shade.

People started running. They piled into their cars and sped away. There was a no-driving rule in effect in the neighborhood, so, Eastridge said, he put his cross hairs on every car that moved.

“All I could think of was car bombs, car bombs, car bombs, and I just kept shooting,” he said.

Orders came over the radio to cease fire, he said, but he kept yelling, “Negative! Negative!”

Eastridge said he shot more than 1,700 rounds. When asked how many people he killed, he said, “Not that many. Maybe a dozen.”

He was court-martialed a short time later on nine counts, including drug possession and disobeying orders. Killing civilians wasn’t one of them.

For that, he said, he was put on guard duty.

Then, in August 2007, sergeants found him with 463 Valium pills in his laundry and a naked female soldier in his bed, according to court testimony. His staff sergeant confronted him about the woman, and Eastridge lashed out, according to his mother, Leanne Eastridge, screaming that he would kill the sergeant, suck out his blood and spit it at his children. Eastridge was court-martialed for disobeying orders and drug possession and sent to a prison camp in Kuwait for a month.

This spring, Eastridge said it was funny that sex and drugs were what got him court-martialed, considering the things he did in Iraq, “Things that can never be told, but that everybody knew about and approved of — basically war crimes.”

He got a health screening as part of the court-martial. Doctors diagnosed him with chronic PTSD, antisocial personality disorder, depression, anxiety and hearing loss. In late September 2007, his commanders decided he was too unstable and dangerous to stay in Iraq, so the Army sent him back to Colorado Springs.

http://www.gazette.com/articles/iframe-59065-eastridge-audio.html

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Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

Comments 118 | Recommend 56

July 26, 2009 3:30 PM
THE GAZETTE

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraqeight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor’s Note)

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments — military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war — but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” Graham said in a June interview. “There is a culture and a stigma that need to change.”

Under his command, nearly everyone — from colonels to platoon sergeants — is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can’t leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers’ transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

“The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, ‘What makes the grass grow?’ and we would yell, ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’ as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. … If they don’t figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening.”

Satan’s throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

“It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees,” said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, “the situation was ugly.”

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father’s antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, “Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance.”

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, “that’s where you get to do all the awesome stuff.”

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

“We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for,” Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like “Satan had punched a hole in the Earth’s surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop.”

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors — sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper’s bullet killed Marquez’s lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson — double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge’s platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

“First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies,” Eastridge said. “Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads.”

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge’s battalion was created in World War II and became known as the “Band of Brothers.” It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-’em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

“It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got,” said Marquez’s friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and “just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

“It was just a free-for-all,” said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.”

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff’s deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to “rough up” Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and “tore that neighborhood up.”

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend’s blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

“They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead,” he said this spring, shaking his head, “then just started shooting.”

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn’t make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

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ANTIDEPRESSANTS, ETC.: FT CARSON Soldier (Marquez) Murder

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”
MARQUEZ:

Marquez started destroying himself with the pills that were supposed to help him.

For his injuries, he said, doctors at Evans prescribed him 90 morphine pills, 90 Percocets, and five fentanyl patches every three weeks.

“They were for pain,” he said. “And I still had pain. But, mostly, I was using them to get high.”

He could not get Iraq out of his head. Doctors prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills, but he said they didn’t help. He was saving up Percocet, then downing a handful on an empty stomach.

He said he started trading his morphine with other soldiers for an antipsychotic called quetiapine and an anti-anxiety drug called clonazepam. Improper use of either can cause psychotic reactions, anxiety, panic attacks, aggressiveness and suicidal behavior, but, Marquez said, injured soldiers traded them like children in a lunchroom swapping desserts.

“It was real common among the guys who were hurt,” Marquez said.

At one point, Marquez said, he ate his three-week supply of meds in half the time, then went back to Evans claiming he had lost his pills.

He started not showing up for duty. He took more pills. He bought more guns and kept them his in his car, he and other soldiers said.

It was no secret. Sergeants later told police that Marquez had showed off his stash of weapons.

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Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

Comments 118 | Recommend 56

July 26, 2009 3:30 PM
THE GAZETTE

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraqeight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor’s Note)

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments — military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war — but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” Graham said in a June interview. “There is a culture and a stigma that need to change.”

Under his command, nearly everyone — from colonels to platoon sergeants — is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can’t leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers’ transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

“The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, ‘What makes the grass grow?’ and we would yell, ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’ as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. … If they don’t figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening.”

Satan’s throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

“It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees,” said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, “the situation was ugly.”

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father’s antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, “Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance.”

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, “that’s where you get to do all the awesome stuff.”

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

“We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for,” Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like “Satan had punched a hole in the Earth’s surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop.”

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors — sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper’s bullet killed Marquez’s lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson — double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge’s platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

“First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies,” Eastridge said. “Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads.”

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge’s battalion was created in World War II and became known as the “Band of Brothers.” It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-’em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

“It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got,” said Marquez’s friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and “just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

“It was just a free-for-all,” said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.”

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff’s deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to “rough up” Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and “tore that neighborhood up.”

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend’s blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

“They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead,” he said this spring, shaking his head, “then just started shooting.”

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn’t make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

Marquez’s sister, who was visiting, didn’t want to see the president because she was so angry about the war and her brother’s wounds, but Marquez was honored.

“I had gotten hurt, but it is part of the job. I wasn’t mad at nobody,” Marquez said.

He was in the hospital for three months and had 17 surgeries so he could keep his leg. Marquez was being medically discharged from the Army and could have stayed at the hospital, but he transferred to Fort Carson on Sept. 13, 2005, to spend his remaining months with his war buddies, who had just returned from Iraq.

He eventually learned to walk without a cane, but other wounds proved harder to heal. He started having nightmares about the war. He felt worthless and crippled, depressed and angry. On a visit home to California, he made his mom put away all his high school sports trophies.

The only things that made him feel better were the pain pills the doctors prescribed for him — and only if he took too many.

‘Kumbaya period’

Post-traumatic stress disorder is like a roadside bomb.

The symptoms can remain hidden for months, then explode. They can cripple some soldiers and leave others untouched. And just like bombs disguised as trash or ruts in the road, PTSD can look like something else.

In many cases, it looks like a bad soldier. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, Army studies say, symptoms can include heavy drinking, drug use, domestic violence, slacking off at work or disobeying orders.

You can often see it coming, said the most recent commanding general of Fort Carson, if you know what to look for.

Soldiers usually go through a jubilant high for a few months after they come home, Graham said. He calls this time “the Kumbaya period.”

“Soldiers have served their country, they’ve made it back, they’re home. It’s all great. It’s later that problems start to surface,” Graham said.

Usually, problems don’t show up for three to six months, he said.

When the brigade landed in Colorado Springs, most soldiers had spent a year in Iraq and a year in South Korea. Most had saved several thousand dollars. Many were old enough to legally drink in the United States for the first time. They had survived the worst of Iraq, and they were jonesing to blow off steam.

All they had to do was go through a few post-deployment debriefings that Fort Carson still uses.

Soldiers sit through classes that warn them that troops often have unrealistically rosy notions of home. They are told to be understanding with spouses and loved ones. They are cautioned to be careful with drinking and driving, and they are warned that the time for carrying a gun everywhere ended in Iraq.

All personal guns must be stored in the post’s armory — not in soldiers’ barracks, not in their cars and not tucked in their belts.

Then Fort Carson screens every soldier for PTSD and other combat-related problems.

If there are no red flags, the soldier can go on leave. If there are, they are referred for further diagnosis, officials at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital said.

The screening asks soldiers a long list of questions about the deployment: Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you depressed? Did you clear houses or bunkers? Were you shot at? Did you witness brutality toward detainees? Did you have friends who were killed?

“Did you shoot people? Did you kill people? Did you see dead civilians? Did you see dead Americans? Did you see dead babies? No. No. No. No.” Eastridge said, mimicking how he answered the questionnaire.

“I had seen and done all that stuff, but you just lie to get it over with.”

Several soldiers said the same: They lied because they didn’t want the hassle of more screening.

When the young infantrymen were set free in Colorado Springs, many packed Tejon Street bars such as Rendezvous Lounge and Rum Bay. When the bars closed, soldiers said, they often picked fights in the street.

By 2006, the police were being called to break up bar brawls almost every night. Extra police were assigned to the area.

The Colorado Springs Police Department doesn’t track the crime statistics of individual units, but according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, jail bookings of military personnel as a whole increased 66 percent in the 12 months after the brigade returned.

The “Kumbaya period” lasted about six months, soldiers said.

Eastridge said he blew through almost $27,000, mostly drinking at bars, but the first thing he did was buy guns: pistols, shotguns and an assault rifle similar to the one he carried in Iraq.

“After being in Iraq, it feels like everyone is the enemy,” he said. “You feel like you need a gun so they don’t come to get you.”

His friends all felt the same way.

Nash slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Butler kept a Glock .40-caliber with him all the time, even when he rocked his newborn baby.

Marquez bought three pistols, a riot-style shotgun and an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. He carried a pistol constantly, he said, even when he went to church.

His buddy, Freeman, said he bought himself a “big, scary” snub-nose .357 revolver.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without it,” he said. “I took it to the mall. I took it to the bank. I even had it right next to me when I took a shower. It makes you feel powerful, less scared. You have to have it with you every second of every day.”

Some returning soldiers, especially those with family members to notice their behavior, went into counseling.

More than 200 Fort Carson soldiers have been referred to First Choice Counseling Center, a private counseling service in Colorado Springs. Davida Hoffman, the director, said her counselors were unprepared for what they heard.

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”

In units that have seen the toughest combat in

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ZOLOFT: FT CARSON – Soldier (Needham) Sucide Attempt, Murder

In March 2007, Needham went to the battalion’s doctor, saying he was “losing it” and needed a break, according to a summary of his service that he wrote. He was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft and sent back to work. In May, Needham said, he went back to the doctor and was again sent back to work. In June, according to medical records, he went again. And in September. Commanders always sent him back out on patrol, he said.

Around that time, he posted a note on his MySpace page: “I’m falling apart by the seams it seems the days here bleed into each other I have to find the will to live man I miss my brothers. These walls are caving in my despair wraps me in its web, I feel I’m sinking in, throw me a lifesaver throw me a life worth living. I’m a part of death I am death this is hard to admit but this shits getting old.”

A few nights later, on Sept. 18, Needham and a fellow soldier bought a contraband can of whiskey and tried to drink away their sorrows. Then Needham took out a gun and fired a shot at his head, his father said. The bullet missed. Needham was detained by his commanders for illegally discharging a firearm. After a few weeks of arguing by phone and e-mail, Needham’s father convinced the unit to let his son see a doctor. The soldier was diagnosed with severe PTSD and flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“What led him to the point of such deep despair that he would attempt suicide?” his father, a retired Army officer, asked. “I understand it. He was trained as a soldier. He was a good soldier, and his group was doing things he knew was wrong. And he was in this prolonged combat situation where they have all this armor and lifesaving technology to keep them alive, but mentally, they are in pieces.”

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Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

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July 26, 2009 3:30 PM
THE GAZETTE

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraqeight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor’s Note)

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments — military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war — but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” Graham said in a June interview. “There is a culture and a stigma that need to change.”

Under his command, nearly everyone — from colonels to platoon sergeants — is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can’t leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers’ transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

“The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, ‘What makes the grass grow?’ and we would yell, ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’ as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. … If they don’t figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening.”

Satan’s throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

“It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees,” said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, “the situation was ugly.”

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father’s antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, “Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance.”

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, “that’s where you get to do all the awesome stuff.”

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

“We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for,” Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like “Satan had punched a hole in the Earth’s surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop.”

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors — sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper’s bullet killed Marquez’s lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson — double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge’s platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

“It just got sickening,” said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge’s best friend. “There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city.”

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

“First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies,” Eastridge said. “Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads.”

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge’s battalion was created in World War II and became known as the “Band of Brothers.” It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-’em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

“It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got,” said Marquez’s friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

“I’m all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything,” said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “But it seems like the Iraqis didn’t even want it.”

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” Freeman said. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.”

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and “just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

“It was just a free-for-all,” said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.”

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff’s deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to “rough up” Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper’s bullet smashed through his best friend’s skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and “tore that neighborhood up.”

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend’s blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

“They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead,” he said this spring, shaking his head, “then just started shooting.”

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn’t make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

Marquez’s sister, who was visiting, didn’t want to see the president because she was so angry about the war and her brother’s wounds, but Marquez was honored.

“I had gotten hurt, but it is part of the job. I wasn’t mad at nobody,” Marquez said.

He was in the hospital for three months and had 17 surgeries so he could keep his leg. Marquez was being medically discharged from the Army and could have stayed at the hospital, but he transferred to Fort Carson on Sept. 13, 2005, to spend his remaining months with his war buddies, who had just returned from Iraq.

He eventually learned to walk without a cane, but other wounds proved harder to heal. He started having nightmares about the war. He felt worthless and crippled, depressed and angry. On a visit home to California, he made his mom put away all his high school sports trophies.

The only things that made him feel better were the pain pills the doctors prescribed for him — and only if he took too many.

‘Kumbaya period’

Post-traumatic stress disorder is like a roadside bomb.

The symptoms can remain hidden for months, then explode. They can cripple some soldiers and leave others untouched. And just like bombs disguised as trash or ruts in the road, PTSD can look like something else.

In many cases, it looks like a bad soldier. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, Army studies say, symptoms can include heavy drinking, drug use, domestic violence, slacking off at work or disobeying orders.

You can often see it coming, said the most recent commanding general of Fort Carson, if you know what to look for.

Soldiers usually go through a jubilant high for a few months after they come home, Graham said. He calls this time “the Kumbaya period.”

“Soldiers have served their country, they’ve made it back, they’re home. It’s all great. It’s later that problems start to surface,” Graham said.

Usually, problems don’t show up for three to six months, he said.

When the brigade landed in Colorado Springs, most soldiers had spent a year in Iraq and a year in South Korea. Most had saved several thousand dollars. Many were old enough to legally drink in the United States for the first time. They had survived the worst of Iraq, and they were jonesing to blow off steam.

All they had to do was go through a few post-deployment debriefings that Fort Carson still uses.

Soldiers sit through classes that warn them that troops often have unrealistically rosy notions of home. They are told to be understanding with spouses and loved ones. They are cautioned to be careful with drinking and driving, and they are warned that the time for carrying a gun everywhere ended in Iraq.

All personal guns must be stored in the post’s armory — not in soldiers’ barracks, not in their cars and not tucked in their belts.

Then Fort Carson screens every soldier for PTSD and other combat-related problems.

If there are no red flags, the soldier can go on leave. If there are, they are referred for further diagnosis, officials at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital said.

The screening asks soldiers a long list of questions about the deployment: Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you depressed? Did you clear houses or bunkers? Were you shot at? Did you witness brutality toward detainees? Did you have friends who were killed?

“Did you shoot people? Did you kill people? Did you see dead civilians? Did you see dead Americans? Did you see dead babies? No. No. No. No.” Eastridge said, mimicking how he answered the questionnaire.

“I had seen and done all that stuff, but you just lie to get it over with.”

Several soldiers said the same: They lied because they didn’t want the hassle of more screening.

When the young infantrymen were set free in Colorado Springs, many packed Tejon Street bars such as Rendezvous Lounge and Rum Bay. When the bars closed, soldiers said, they often picked fights in the street.

By 2006, the police were being called to break up bar brawls almost every night. Extra police were assigned to the area.

The Colorado Springs Police Department doesn’t track the crime statistics of individual units, but according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, jail bookings of military personnel as a whole increased 66 percent in the 12 months after the brigade returned.

The “Kumbaya period” lasted about six months, soldiers said.

Eastridge said he blew through almost $27,000, mostly drinking at bars, but the first thing he did was buy guns: pistols, shotguns and an assault rifle similar to the one he carried in Iraq.

“After being in Iraq, it feels like everyone is the enemy,” he said. “You feel like you need a gun so they don’t come to get you.”

His friends all felt the same way.

Nash slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Butler kept a Glock .40-caliber with him all the time, even when he rocked his newborn baby.

Marquez bought three pistols, a riot-style shotgun and an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. He carried a pistol constantly, he said, even when he went to church.

His buddy, Freeman, said he bought himself a “big, scary” snub-nose .357 revolver.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without it,” he said. “I took it to the mall. I took it to the bank. I even had it right next to me when I took a shower. It makes you feel powerful, less scared. You have to have it with you every second of every day.”

Some returning soldiers, especially those with family members to notice their behavior, went into counseling.

More than 200 Fort Carson soldiers have been referred to First Choice Counseling Center, a private counseling service in Colorado Springs. Davida Hoffman, the director, said her counselors were unprepared for what they heard.

“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” she said. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”

In units that have seen the toughest combat in Iraq, one in four soldiers can screen positive for PTSD, the director of psychiatry at Walter Reed, Dr. Charles Hoge, said in an e-mail interview.

“Many soldiers continue to be able to perform their duties very well despite having significant symptoms,” Hoge wrote. But others show what he called “serious impairment,” and the worse the combat and the longer units are exposed, the worse the effects.

The affliction is as old as war itself.

Eric Dean, an author in Connecticut who specializes in war’s psychological toll, reviewed records from the Civil War for his 1997 book, “Shook Over Hell,” and found the same surge of crime and suicide that Fort Carson has seen.

“They have been in every war,” he said. “They never readjusted. They ended up living alone, drinking too much.”

They were “the lost generation” of World War I. They are the veterans of Vietnam who disproportionately populate homeless shelters and prisons today.

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ZOLOFT, PROZAC, Adderall & Ritalin: 18 Year Old Shoots Deputy: Critcal …

WHEN ARE DOCTORS EVER GOING TO REALIZE THAT THEY CANNOT GIVE ALL OF THESE DRUGS TOGETHER?!!!!!!! THERE IS NO CLINICAL DATA TO PROVE THE SAFETY OF EVEN TWO OF THEM GIVEN IN COMBINATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paragraphs 11 though 14 read: “To combat attention disorders and other conditions, the teen took Ritalin, Zoloft, Prozac and Adero, among other drugs, Bryce said, toting the various prescriptions with him in a pill sorter.”

“The medicine sedated Adrian for hours. He was often unresponsive and seemingly unaware of people talking to him while on the medication, Bryce said.”

“The assortment of pills ‘took a toll on him,’ he said.”

“Other times Adrian displayed anger he seemed unable to control, Bryce said. Some of it was typical teen behavior, but sometimes Adrian “blacked out” and later forgot about the episodes, Bryce said.”

http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20090731/ARTICLES/907319905/-1/SPORTS12?Title=Dad-says-There-s-something-wrong-with-him –

Dad says, ‘There’s something wrong with him’

Father grieves for son suspected of shooting deputy.
By Matthew Pleasant
Staff Writer

Published: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 12:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 12:24 p.m.

BOURG ­ To understand what happened, Bryce Broussard sifts through memories of his son.
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He cries as he remembers an 18-year-old boy who struggled to read, who needed help filling out job applications and had an unpredictable and explosive temper, he said.

The same young man earned money by cutting Hope Street yards, who welded his own workout bench in school and sometimes fell asleep wearing headphones.

The teen, Adrian Broussard, is now charged with attempted first-degree murder, accused of shooting Terrebonne deputy David Bourg three times Tuesday and leaving him in critical condition.

Still reeling over the arrest, Bryce, 36, said he and his wife, Amy, plan to support his son. He finds it hard to comprehend Adrian committing the crime, he said, but recognizes the behavior problems that may have contributed to the shooting.

“He was a good kid, but there’s something wrong with him,” said Bryce, an offshore worker. “He would blow up over nothing.”

Adrian Broussard’s last steady home was 128 Hope St. in Bourg, where his father said Adrian lived for two years before moving to live with a relative in Montegut.

He struggled through school at South Terrebonne High to earn a technical-skill degree, Bryce said. Rusting in the yard is a workout bench and frames for four-wheelers ­ all of it Adrian’s work.

Often unable to concentrate, Adrian took a slew of medications, his father said. But he never seemed more focused or content than when welding or dissembling a motor.

“He wanted to make different things that nobody else had,” Bryce said.

To combat attention disorders and other conditions, the teen took Ritalin, Zoloft, Prozac and Adero, among other drugs, Bryce said, toting the various prescriptions with him in a pill sorter.

The medicine sedated Adrian for hours. He was often unresponsive and seemingly unaware of people talking to him while on the medication, Bryce said.

The assortment of pills “took a toll on him,” he said.

Other times Adrian displayed anger he seemed unable to control, Bryce said. Some of it was typical teen behavior, but sometimes Adrian “blacked out” and later forgot about the episodes, Bryce said.

His unwieldy behavior and penchant for mechanic work followed the family to Disney World last summer, where the teen preferred to stay at the hotel rather than visit the parks, they said. When the family truck broke down, he worked on it without hesitation.

The father and son bought parts and repaired the truck in the hotel parking lot, he said.

“He helped me piece by piece, tearing it down,” he said.

Bryce said the family tried to help him find a job after graduation. The family ate at Golden Corral during one trip into Houma, and Adrian’s temper flared at servers who told him the restaurant wasn’t serving steak.

He berated the kitchen staff, telling them none knew how to cook, Bryce said. He also threw his cup in the dining room, sending drink all over surrounding tables.

“It was nothing nice,” he said.

Neighbors said the Broussard family seemed to have a troubled home life, citing fights and police visits to the trailer. Bryce and Amy Broussard said they were close despite the incidents.

“We’re not saying we’re perfect,” Amy Broussard said.

Adrian Broussard left the Hope Street trailer several months ago to stay with cousins in Montegut and only occasionally spent time with his father after that, Bryce said.

Just before midnight Tuesday, Adrian allegedly gunned down a deputy investigating reports of a suspicious person outside the Montegut Post Office.

By 1 a.m. Wednesday, deputies were at the Broussard’s trailer demanding to know where Adrian was, Bryce said. He said he spent much of the morning handcuffed inside a police cruiser that drove through Montegut in search of the teen.

The elder Broussard was charged that day with simple criminal damage to property and theft of goods over $500, according to jail records. Broussard said the arrest stemmed from outstanding warrants.

Adrian was arrested about 12 hours after the shooting when a resident found him inside an abandoned home, police have said. He is being held at the Terrebonne Parish jail in lieu of a $2 million bond on the attempted first-degree-murder charge. He is also charged with simple burglary, trespassing, possession of marijuana and illegal carrying a weapon, deputies said.

Deputies had searched for Adrian Broussard earlier Tuesday to arrest him on warrants for felony theft and criminal damage. His bond for the warrant charges is $20,000.

Deputy Bourg, a five-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who is married with children, remains in stable condition in the critical care unit at Terrebonne General Medical Center.

While Bryce is hoping for the best outcome for his son, he says he also hopes Bourg is able to heal.

“We are praying for a full recovery,” Bryce said. “We apologize to the family, and we’re very sorry for what happened.”

Staff Writer Matthew Pleasant can be reached at 857-2202 or matthew.pleasant@houmatoday.com.

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DEPRESSION MED: Suicide Attempt: Story on The Gap: Australia

Paragraph 11 reads: “Years later, Mr Ritchie encouraged a ‘‘nervous and confused’’ woman, sitting on a ledge, shoes by her side, to follow him home. Over tea and toast, she revealed she was unhappy with medication she had been prescribed for depression. Mr Ritchie’s wife suggested she seek a second opinion. ‘‘A couple of months later she came up the path with a bottle of French champagne. We later got a Christmas card from her, and a postcard. It said ‘I’ll never forget your important intervention in my life. I am well’.’’

http://www.smh.com.au/national/an-angel-walking-among-us-at-the-gap-20090731-e4f2.html

An angel walking among us at The Gap

’’People will always come here. I don’t think it will ever stop’’ … Don Ritchie. Photo: Marco del Grande

Kate Benson Medical Reporter
August 1, 2009

HE IS the watchman of The Gap. A former life insurance salesman who in 45 years has officially rescued about 160 people intent on jumping from the cliffs at Watsons Bay, mostly from Gap Park, opposite his home high on Old South Head Road. Unofficially, that figure is closer to 400.

Some, at his urging, quietly gathered their shoes and wallets, neatly laid out on the rocks, and followed him home for breakfast. Others, tragically, struggled as he grabbed at their clothes before they slipped over the edge.

Still others later sent tokens of thanks, a magnum of champagne or an anonymous drawing slipped into his letter box, labelling him ‘‘an angel walking among us’’.

Don Ritchie, 82, spends much of his time reading newspapers, books and scanning the glistening expanse of ocean laid out before him. His days of climbing fences are gone and he admits some relief that most visitors now carry mobile phones and are quick to contact the police if they see a lone figure standing too close to the edge, too deep in contemplation.

For its part, Woollahra Council has been campaigning for $2.5 million to install higher fences, motion-sensitive lights, emergency phones and closed-circuit television cameras, but Mr Ritchie is ambivalent.

‘‘People will always come here. I don’t think it will ever stop,’’ he says, with a shrug.

Some deaths have been recorded in his diary, others are eternally etched in his mind.

One summer evening he spotted a young man perched on a thin ledge, beyond the fence.

‘‘I went over and I tried to talk to him, asking him questions about where he was from. He wouldn’t talk much, just kept looking straight ahead. I was talking to him for about half an hour … thinking I was making headway. I said ‘why don’t you come over for a cup of tea, or a

beer, if you’d like one?’ He said ‘no’ and stepped straight off the side … his hat blew up and I caught it in my hand.’’ Later, Mr Ritchie discovered the 19-year-old had grown up next door, playing with his grandchildren.

Years later, Mr Ritchie encouraged a ‘‘nervous and confused’’ woman, sitting on a ledge, shoes by her side, to follow him home. Over tea and toast, she revealed she was unhappy with medication she had been prescribed for depression. Mr Ritchie’s wife suggested she seek a second opinion. ‘‘A couple of months later she came up the path with a bottle of French champagne. We later got a Christmas card from her, and a postcard. It said ‘I’ll never forget your important intervention in my life. I am well’.’’

Despite his bravery and compassion, Mr Ritchie has steered clear of the limelight. He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his services to suicide prevention but is all too aware that any publicity attracts more depressed and disturbed people.

In the weeks after the Channel 10 newsreader Charmaine Dragun jumped to her death outside his house in November 2007, Mr Ritchie’s wife is adamant six more followed.

‘‘But what do you do? Not talk about it?’’ he asks. ‘‘It’s the truth. It’s what goes on here.’’

It has long been a haunting dichotomy for rescuers, families and media. To speak out in a bid to have the area made safer, risking more people becoming aware of it, or to keep quiet, letting the deaths go on.

But for an anti-suicide campaigner, Dianne Gaddin, whose daughter Tracy jumped from The Gap in 2005, the answer is easy. If the issue is not aired, the problem will never be solved.

She has written four letters in the past month to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, urging him to act. While her pleas go unanswered, her desperation balloons. She knows Mr Ritchie will not be standing guard forever.

‘‘Sometimes just a smile and a greeting is all it takes to change the mind of the would-be suicider. I don’t believe people want to die, but living is just too hard. To me, Don is a guardian angel.’’

Lifeline: 131 114; Salvo Crisis Line 93312000; Beyond Blue 1300224 636.

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ANTIDEPRESSANT & ALCOHOL: In Pink Pajamas Woman Slashes Neighbor’s Tires: UK

Third paragraph from the end reads: “Stephen Constantine, defending, said: ‘Ms Fergus suffers from depression and this offending was a result of combining drink with her prescribed medication’.”

http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/Easington-tyreslasher-wore-pink-pyjamas.5509772.jp

Easington tyre-slasher wore pink pyjamas
Published Date:
30 July 2009
By Rob Freeth

A drunken woman dressed herself in pink pyjamas before going out at the dead of night to slash car tyres.

Joanne Fergus did not know the owners of the vehicles she damaged, Durham Crown Court heard.

Fergus, 25, of Glenhurst Road, Easington Village, admitted three charges of criminal damage on January 23 this year.

She has no previous convictions, but has police caustions for a public order offence and possessing a small quantity of amphetamine, and she received a penalty notice for being drunk and disorderly.

Judge Esmond Faulks sentenced Fergus to a nine-month supervision order, and ordered her to pay £282 compensation.

“You slashed the tyres of cars belonging to neighbours who had done nothing to you,” the judge told Fergus.

“It was a disgraceful thing to do and I hope you are ashamed of yourself.”

“A neighbour in Easington saw a figure crouched down beside a Jaguar car,” said David Wilkinson, prosecuting.

“He then saw a flash of metal, which was later confirmed to be a kitchen knife.

“The neighbour was able to tell police the person with the knife was a woman dressed in pink pyjamas.

“Officers cruised around the immediate area and the only house with a downstairs light on belonged to Fergus.

“She was wearing the pink pyjamas when she answered the door.”

The court heard Fergus admitted she had been out slashing tyres, but could not say why she had done it.

“She had been drinking and was upset due to an argument with her boyfriend,” added Mr Wilkinson.

“One tyre on the Jaguar was found to be slashed, as well as two tyres on a Peugeot, and another two tyres on a Vauxhall Astra.”

Stephen Constantine, defending, said: “Ms Fergus suffers from depression and this offending was a result of combining drink with her prescribed medication.

“The incident was also borne out of a domestic argument with her boyfriend at the time.

“She can pay compensation, although her income from benefits is £120 a week, from which she has to look after herself and her young daughter.”

* Last Updated: 30 July 2009 12:44 PM
* Source: n/a
* Location: Sunderland

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