Ryan Cox back in jail, after another discussion @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council:

February 19, 2014 at 3:35 pm | In West Seattle Crime Prevention Council, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Repeat offender Ryan Cox is back in jail this afternoon, hours after his case came up at last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting – on a night when the Seattle Mental Health Court was a long-planned topic of discussion.

During the discussion of Cox’s case, we discovered a warrant had been out for his arrest for two weeks, a warrant for violation of probation – same reason he had been taken in (and released after a day) last month. This time, the notation on the publicly viewable Municipal Court docket described him as “not a good candidate for probation” and labeled the warrant as “do not release.” (Photo at right is from 2009, distributed by police the first time Cox was being sought for vandalism.)

The docket also mentioned presiding Municipal Court Judge Kimi Kondo, who happened to be last night’s guest speaker.

Here’s how last night unfolded, including the discussion of the Mental Health Court in general, as well as Cox’s case.

Cox came up during the “community concerns” section of the meeting following new precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske‘s listing of current crime trends (WSB coverage here). An attendee mentioned Cox’s brief time in jail last month following a discussion at the January WSCPC meeting (explained in this WSB report). “We’ve told the patrol officers to be (on the lookout) for him,” Capt. Wilske offered. But the attendee was implacable, frustrated that Cox was back out again.

Judge Kondo tried to explain how the Mental Health Court process worked, but didn’t have any direct knowledge of Cox’s case.

“Do you think nine times in Western State Hospital is enough?” the attendee asked, regarding Cox’s record. Judge Kondo explained how competency and dropping of charges worked, as well as the threshold for civil commitment. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s one of the reasons why we started Mental Health Court, to try to get people some help.”

“He’s being let down by the system,” said another attendee. They tried to explain some of Cox’s behavior, including homophobic insults and vandalism. “If he’s not competent to stand trial, then how is he competent to be out on the street?” Capt. Wilske said he would contact the Crisis Intervention Team to see if there’s anything they can do to help. Judge Kondo noted that no one can be forced to go through the Mental Health Court system, which can be a problem; she said she had relatives with mental-health challenges and knows that one problem is, “they start feeling good and stop taking their meds.”

Said an attendee, “Why should it be up to them to opt in or not? … When these mentally ill people are committing crimes and they’re escalating …”

The judge noted at one point, “If we held every mentally ill person in custody, the jails would be bursting at the seams.” She also said Western State Hospital “got so far behind in the last month or so … there was negotiations … they brought in a team of psychologists and did (so many) psychological evaluations in one day,” they got closer to catching up. Judge Kondo said most of those defendants are not a somewhat extreme case such as Cox.

Judge Kondo brought up a bill that came up in the State House this session, proposed by parents of a mentally ill man shot and killed by Seattle Police during a standoff on Capitol Hill, trying to make it easier for people like their son (and, having read the bill, we’d suggest, like Cox) to be committed. She suggested that people follow the bill’s progress. “It is really difficult to get somebody to acknowledge that they need help and … go into the system.”

She says that the Department of Justice process regarding Seattle Police also revealed that “police don’t really deal well” with mentally ill people, and it depends on what they are dealing with – manic-depressive, schizophrenic, bipolar disorder. They’re working on a training program to give police more tools to identify which cases can “go right into the Mental Health Court.”

While the discussion of Ryan Cox proceeded, we looked up his case in the Seattle Municipal Court system, discovered on the publicly viewable docket that a warrant was issued for his arrest two weeks ago, carrying a bail amount of $15,000. The notation described him as “not a good candidate for probation” and labeled him as “do not release.” It seemed important to bring it to the attention of those gathered during the meeting, so we did. They indicated they’d follow up as soon as they could – which they did, post-meeting – and the general discussion continued.

What age range does the Mental Health Court see? Judge Kondo was asked. 20s, 30s, 40s, she said, but cautioned that it’s not so much that those are the age ranges of mental illness, as the age ranges in which people tend to commit crimes.

What makes a mental-health patient a danger to themselves? Capt. Wilske noted, when they can’t take care of themselves.

“People in mental health crisis are not going to recognize that they need help,” Judge Kondo observed.

The crossover between substance abuse and mental illness came up as well – since people so often “self-medicate” with oft-abused drugs. Judge Kondo said the combination of marijuana and alcohol is increasing in collision reports.

Capt. Wilske said more officers are going to be trained in crisis intervention; Judge Kondo also brought up the subject of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill as a resource for families. She then revealed that her son is bipolar and has been hospitalized for his illness more than a few times. She said it has been time-consuming each time to get him stabilized, yet he has persevered with his goals in life, including getting a college degree in six years, though he currently, she says, is not able to work. “It’s difficult – you don’t get a lot of support … (and) there’s not a lot of resources,” she said, explaining she can empathize with families. He has been in jail and had clashes with police, she went on to explain. When he’s off his medication, she doesn’t even want him around. She said she asked not to even be involved with the Mental Health Court calendar until a year and a half ago because it would have been too emotional, given what had been going on with her son.

“I know from a parent point of view what it’s like to have to deal with this sort of situation,” she said, while also acknowledging it’s “frightening” as a property owner or citizen or someone else. “It’s a difficult situation and I know the police are doing the best they can.” She spoke of one of the SPD Crisis Intervention Team members who she wishes could be “cloned … so we could have 100 of him in the city.”

Then the topic turned yet again to Ryan Cox. A person with a restraining order against him after a skirmish talked about the victimization she felt going through that. Shouldn’t she be getting a call when he’s out? she asks. Judge Kondo says she has orders against people who have threatened to kill her and she doesn’t know where they are, either.

“Earlier you talked about identifying people (who could be serious trouble). It seems to me, John Q. Public, that Ryan Cox has been ID’d.”

But, Capt. Wilske explained, you still have to have some current behavior to deal with someone, to get them off the street, for example.

One of the other attendees, whose workplace has been vandalized by Cox, said that as she gets closer to work, she gets more nervous, all the time. She talked about dreading the thought that he is out there somewhere.

What’s needed to improve the Mental Health Court? WSCPC president Richard Miller asked Judge Kondo as the meeting came to an end.

More forensic psychologists, more access to treatment, more money, said Kondo, saying, “This is the first year in the budget for five years that (the MHC hasn’t been cut) … you can’t solve the problem with money but it certainly helps to get people a little more support.”

She also said that it would be helpful if “the public” could recognize signs of danger and mental illness sooner, to get help earlier. Right now, most serious problems manifest around 19 or 20, she said – “you need education, people need to recognize what they’re looking at, the difference between bipolar and schizophrenia and OCD, which is a different animal …”

Another attendee asked, do you turn people away when you run low on resources?

“We don’t do that, because we have really resourceful people … so far we’ve been able to meet the need,” said the judge, again stressing “it’s a volunteer program, people have to opt in.” And she stressed there are success stories, where people “graduate” from the program after two years’ jurisdiction and are sent on their way – “we give them as many positive strokes as we can … and hope it takes.”

“The stigma of mental illness has kept a lot of progress from happening,” the judge said, clearly with regret. “It doesn’t go away – there’s not a cure for mental illness – it can be managed. It’s a part of their life forever, and a part of yours.”

As Ryan Cox’s has been a part of the community for five years now, since he first came to West Seattle-wide (and beyond) attention in spring 2009 for a spree of homophobic graffiti vandalism. He wound up being arrested twice that year.

His most recent case was a guilty plea to assault, for spitting on and yelling slurs at a man, in December. He was released on New Year’s Eve.

Today, he appeared on the jail register just an hour ago. The Municipal Court website does not yet include information on a hearing or what’s next, but we’ll continue to follow up.

20 Comments

  1. How can Judge Kondo explain how the Mental Health Court system works when it clearly doesn’t work? This mess started to gain momentum when Ronald Reagan’s conservative renaissance cut federal funding for mental health programs by 30% and eventually resulted in the release of thousands of mentally ill people into communities without adequate resources. I suppose now it’s more realistic to expect voters to support funding for more jails rather than mental health programs.

    Comment by JTB — 4:37 pm February 19, 2014 #

  2. wow, who could have seen this coming?

    Comment by flimflam — 4:49 pm February 19, 2014 #

  3. I have to say that I am a bit embarrassed for making Ryan Cox the main topic of the last two crime prevention meetings but it is important for him to get the help he needs and for those who have been impacted by his crimes. Any one of you could become his next target.

    Comment by Jackie W — 5:26 pm February 19, 2014 #

  4. Jackie W: Do not be embarrassed. You are absolutely doing the right thing by speaking out. I live in Mr. Cox’s stomping ground, and it is scary for those of us in the community that he is not getting the help he needs and that we, the community, are put at risk by an inadequate mental health judiciary system. Will look forward to WSB’s follow up on his recent arrest–especially in light of the folks from government at the community meeting who have promised to be more proactive.

    Comment by iggy — 5:43 pm February 19, 2014 #

  5. Jackie W – I agree with iggy – I was at the meeting and that IS the place for community concerns.

    Comment by Sandal40 — 6:06 pm February 19, 2014 #

  6. Thank you for the support iggy and Sandal40. . Also thank you Tracy for all your coverage of Ryan. You have been a great source keepimg us informed. GOD BLESS THE BLOG !!!

    Comment by Jackie W — 7:04 pm February 19, 2014 #

  7. Man this is crazy, its almost like the mentally ill still have civil rights. They should be tracked at all times and jailed as frequently as possible so normal people don’t have to see them or interact with them.

    Comment by vincent — 7:34 pm February 19, 2014 #

  8. @ vincent. Educate yourself on mental illness, please. Someone who is diagnosed mentally ill does not choose to be diagnosed with it. Men and women who are mentally ill still have dreams and goals but there is just more of an obstacle to achieve them. We need to educate ourselves so people who are mentally ill can ask for the help more often then be shunned by soceity.

    Comment by Mun — 8:31 pm February 19, 2014 #

  9. As a person who went to the meeting not to talk about Ryan Cox, I was very impressed with Judge Kondo and plan on voting for her in the future. I went with a concern to help a mentally ill neighbor and found her to be extremely helpful. She has a child who is mentally ill and I feel that she really understands both sides of the situation. The odd thing is, even though I wasn’t there to talk about Cox, I was happy they were talking about him because unfortunately at some point he lived at my address and the court is always sending his warrants to our house. I just wish I had more time to ask them about this issue so news agencies will stop looking for him at our house.

    Comment by j — 8:32 pm February 19, 2014 #

  10. Sorry to hear someone has bothered you because of your address, J. I do want to note that those news agencies do not include us – we don’t go door-knocking. Have you contacted the court to tell them unequivocally he has no connection to your address? It should be pretty easy to take care of. “Should,” I hope … TR

    Comment by WSB — 8:39 pm February 19, 2014 #

  11. Vincent, your sarcasm tells me y are missing the point. Yes , mentally ill people have rights. However, Ryan has escalated from homophobic graffiti to vandalism to assaults on random people. My hope is that he can get the right kind of help so he has a proper place to live and food and hopefully stay on his meds so he can better function in society. I’m not fighting against him, I’m trying to fight for him. To me, that is a winning situation for everyone.

    Comment by Jackie W — 9:06 pm February 19, 2014 #

  12. For ‘j’, your home was Ryan’s childhood home for 12 years and many in your neighborhood have tried helping your mentally ill neighbor well over 30 years including myself and her brother. Another sad outcome of mental illness.

    Comment by doghouse — 9:16 pm February 19, 2014 #

  13. I have spoken with his mother a few times over the years and I believe she would agree with you. What I have heard from her is a very close parallel to what Judge Kondo spoke of last night, talking about her experiences with her adult son. And I don’t think anyone would want to be where this family found themselves – this is the story the judge mentioned last night, about the couple whose son got into a standoff with Seattle Police, who killed him:
    .
    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022757026_parentsmentalhealthxml.html
    .
    You might also recall the recent story of a mentally ill man (who lives with his parents) arrested, jailed, and charged after online threats against the mayor and a councilmember. We were harassed online and by phone by that same man for several weeks last summer and filed a police report when he threatened to come cause trouble for us in person; no death threats, and he was not arrested in the case. But we found it an interesting point in application of inconsistent laws as to how he wound up jailed (five weeks now) and charged with no record while Ryan Cox, who now has a significant record, was allowed out on personal recognizance last time around. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:19 pm February 19, 2014 #

  14. WSB great reporting, thank you for continuing to educate the public on the subject of mental illness! Among many great services, NAMI Greater Seattle offers free Family to Family courses which help caregivers learn how to care for family members with a mental illness. Our family member has been helped greatly by the Mental Health Court, thank goodness our loved one is working now and has hope in their life, that is all we ask. We need to increase Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for EVERY police officer. We recommend the Mental Health First Aid course. The best way to talk to a person in a mental health crisis is to de-escalate in a calm voice, talk kindly and with compassion, these are someone’s loved one, a son, a father, perhaps a brother. Its not easy. Thanks WSB!

    Comment by Art Critic — 10:40 pm February 19, 2014 #

  15. Art Critic, thanks for the added information. I still need to link a few more things in the story, which I rushed out earlier than planned after discovering police had indeed made an arrest, and one of them was NAMI. (Looks like I cut that mention out. Here’s the local link – http://www.nami-greaterseattle.org )
    .
    Also, WSCPC’s president Richard said he hopes to get the CIT for a future presentation. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:50 pm February 19, 2014 #

  16. Jackie,

    No need to defend or explain yourself to Vincent, it is obvious that he rather look at the imagined ideals in his mind rather than look at the reality of the actual situation.

    Comment by Eric — 5:12 am February 20, 2014 #

  17. TR – we have talked to the courts, but they can’t remove our address from his court records.

    To doghouse – We appreciate what neighbors have tried, but the fact of the matter is no neighbors have done much for some time. Even her brother doesn’t know the situation as several years ago he wanted to have her committed for three days to remodel her house (clearly he hasn’t seen the house). The house is going to fall down within the next year and probably with her inside of it. Luckily, the Crisis Intervention Team started working on it last week.

    Comment by J — 9:04 am February 20, 2014 #

  18. ‘J’ or WSB, I would like to communicate with ‘J’ away from WSB re. their mentally ill neighbor. I can provide my e-mail address to ‘J’ but do not want it published.

    Re. “no neighbors have done much for some time” the woman will not accept help as with most mentally ill people, she does not see there is a problem.

    Comment by doghouse — 9:52 am February 20, 2014 #

  19. JTB,
    Ahhhh…the old liberal canard that Reagan cut funding to Mental Health Institutions for no reason.
    There was a reason for the cut.
    In the mid 80′s there was a court case that was brought by a Kansas sex offender that had served his sentence, but continued to be imprisoned due to his threat to reoffend.
    He sued Kansas to be released. The ACLU joined on his behalf and introduced the additional plaintiffs of people involuntarily committed. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where they upheld lower courts rulings that people who completed their sentence in prison could not be held longer, even for the safety of society. The ruling also applied to those committed to mental institutions involuntarily, and to anyone in a hospital.
    That is why at the end of the 80′s you saw a HUGE increase in the mentally ill homeless, the re introduction of sex offenders into society no matter the risk of reoffending.
    With so many patients deciding to leave the mental institutions, there was no need to fund empty beds, rooms and institutions. So Reagan cut the budget in order to streamline and consolidate treatment facilities.
    So if you want to blame some one, blame the ACLU.
    You can add the deaths of Sandy Hook, Aurora, VA Tech and just about EVERY mass shooting committed by mentally ill people who should have been in a treatment facility, but weren’t because they had the right to not be there if they did not want to be.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 1:21 pm February 20, 2014 #

  20. EWWR, I believe your timeline is off by about a decade. Actually the court case that led to the massive deinstitutionalization of patients in mental hospitals was in 1975 and was intended to reduce the warehousing of mental health patients. Congress subsequently passed the Mental Health Systems Act to provide funding for community mental health programs, research and training professionals to reduce reliance on more expensive nursing homes, jails and prisons. The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1982 merged drastically reduced funding for those mental health programs into block grants which permitted states to decide how much they wished to spend on those programs. That was part of Reagan’s effort to reduce federal spending and, perhaps, leave something in the federal coffers for programs like the Star Wars program which funneled money directly into the military industrial complex as conservatives have traditionally appeared to believe is a better return on investment than education and healthcare.
    The comments on this thread reveal how difficult it is today for courts, law enforcement and families to manage many mentally ill people in spite of good intentions on everyone’s part. There’s no intention to “blame” anyone other than to recognize we arrived at this state of affairs as a result of policies that have failed to provide adequate support for community mental health programs. We will deal with this challenge more effectively by providing better funding. My reference to a preference for funding jails is admittedly a sarcastic comment on what I regard as short-sighted thinking on the part of too many whose reaction is simply “throw the bum in jail” rather than dig in a do, or pay for, the hard work.

    Comment by JTB — 7:32 pm February 20, 2014 #

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