by: Carey Wedler
Following the Sunday shooting of a veteran with PTSD, Johnathan Guillory, the victim’s widow, the media, police and government are offering different stories.
his much is confirmed:
Guillory had done a tour in Iraq and worked as a private contractor in Afghanistan. As a result, he suffered severe PTSD. As his wife, Maria Garcia said of him before he went to Iraq:
“He was the life of the party what he wanted was to smile, have fun, you name it.”
But after his military service,
“It was a whole other person, I have been with him for 11 years, he was not the same.”
She explained that
“Sometimes he couldn’t even deal with day-to-day life. It was a struggle for him to get through each morning, but he did.”
The couple has two children and Garcia says he wanted to get better for them. But he often encountered difficulties. She says that he called the Veteran’s Association for help but was turned away and told to make an appointment, instead. Garcia told local CBS
“I think the system failed him. It was a huge disappointment for him to come in and have doctors say they couldn’t fit him in an emergency appointment, that they didn’t have anything, that they were totally booked up.”
In the midst of his suffering, he often went on aggressive rampages on his street that scared his neighbors. Police had previously been called to the area to investigate disturbances.
Resident Janet Schafer, who lives four doors down, said,
“My sister-in-law had an encounter with him…He was very belligerent, foul language, very agitated.”
Kathy Bullion said,
“We just moved in a couple weeks ago and the last few days he’s been harassing us…The cops have been called, they drive by all the time, and he was blaming us.”
Police responded on Sunday after several 911 hang up calls were made from the Guillory residence. Garcia was not home at the time of the incident.
According to some news outlets, police claim Guillory was armed with a gun and they feared for their lives. That’s when two officers, Joshua Hawksworth and Sergeant Leonard Perez, opened fire on him. He died at the hospital and the two officers are on paid administrative leave.
A local ABC report said police explicitly claimed he was armed. The headline claims Garcia said he had a gun, but this is not mentioned in the article. In another article, Garcia says she did not believe he had a gun on him. CBS says he was armed and quoted police as saying that he pointed his gun at them, that
“…the officers[,] fearing for their safety and the safety of the community fired on Mr. Guillory as trained to do…As of yet [there is] no information on shots fired from anyone other than our officers.”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is refusing to say whether or not Guillory was armed, but it seems apparent in all coverage that if he was, he did not fire. More details will likely emerge as the investigation progresses.
What is clear, regardless, is the tendency of police to use fatal gunshots to stop people they feel threatened by. Rather than shooting the hypothetically armed Guillory in the leg or tasering him to debilitate him, they opted to open fire and shoot the man to death.
Though his famly does not blame police for what happened, one family member said
“He did not deserve to die, he was on his knees begging for help, and called every crisis center, suicide hotline, VA counseling every day this week trying to get some help.”
This story unfortunately represents the intersection of several ills in America: Guillory, like many soldiers, was traumatized by what he did and saw while fighting for the war machine. He sought help from the Veterans Assocation and was turned away because of systemic failures within that system. He was then shot by police, who have “benefited” from military equipment donated by the agency Guillory “served” and the mentality that they are warriors. Maricopa County police are notorious for abusing their authority.
All of these factors led to the death of Jonathan Guillory. While he may have been disturbed, he should not have died because he could not handle the trauma he suffered while serving the state that killed him.
As his widow said,
“I wish I could’ve done something different for him. I tried. A lot of people perceive him as a crazy guy who went off the edge, but that’s not him.”
This was the fourth officer invovled shooting in Central Arizona this year.