Jake Laird’s father wants tougher mental illness gun law

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (February 14, 2016) –  When IMPD Officer Jake Laird was gunned down in the line of duty in the summer of 2004, there was no law to permit police officers to seize guns from persons suffering from mental illness.

The Jake Laird Law changed that, but the legislation’s limits were never more apparent than this weekend when a man with a documented history of mental illness wounded an IMPD officer during a SWAT standoff.

Roger Hawkins, 50, is charged with attempted murder and is being held for mental health observation at Eskenazi Hospital.

Officer Mark Reynolds is recovering from surgery to repair a broken arm.

Reynolds was one of several officers who responded to a report of shots fired in the 1100 block of McDougal Street early Saturday morning.

More than an hour later, after shooting up his own home, Hawkins surrendered to SWAT officers.

Bullet holes shattered windows in the front, back and side of the house.

On February 18, 2014, Hawkins’ mother called police and reported that her son was suffering from “schizophrenia” and “had not been taking his medication.”

“I have been hearing voices,” Hawkins told police. “The devil told me that I should kill myself.”

“He reported that he had multiple weapons,” wrote an officer.

IMPD moved to seize Hawkins’ guns citing the Jake Laird Law which reads that authorities can do so if a person, “has a mental illness that may be controlled by medication and has not demonstrated a pattern of voluntarily and consistently taking the individual’s medication while not under supervision…or (exhibits) emotionally unstable conduct.”

An examination of court records shows that while Hawkins was never charged with a crime, he represented himself in the civil seizure of his weapons.

By the end of 2014, the Marion County Prosecutors Office dropped the case, opening the door for Hawkins to retrieve his guns.

An Indiana State Police primer on the law advises, “(an) individual must prove by preponderance that he or she is no longer dangerous,” and, “if the petitioner is successful…court orders law enforcement to return firearms.”

When dozens of IMPD officers responded to Hawkins’ southside neighborhood before dawn Saturday, they were confronted with a man they had dealt with before who was heavily armed and struggling with mental illness.

“Unfortunately police officers have no idea when the incidents are happening whether they are dealing with an unstable person or not,” said Mike Laird, father of the slain patrolman. “Most of the time, that’s found out after the fact.”

Mike Laird said the law named for his son has saved lives throughout Indiana due to the seizure of weapons from unstable gun owners, but the legislation has its limits.

“This was just a tool to try to get things done. It was a step for police officers to try to resolve a situation. It wasn’t a solution. It was just a step to help them,” said Laird. “It needs to be further updated.”