The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

November 27, 2012

Deputies' shooter struggled with mental illness

— FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) — The mother of an Alabama man accused of shooting two sheriff's deputies wrote of his increasingly erratic and threatening behavior in three requests to have him placed in mental institutions against his will in recent years, according to court documents that have surfaced since the shooting that left one of the men dead.

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets and packed a civic center to say goodbye to the slain deputy Tuesday as more details of the suspect's troubled past emerged.

Baldwin County Sheriff's officials say Michael Jansen, 53, shot and killed Deputy Scott Ward and wounded Deputy Curtis Summerlin on Friday afternoon before the officers returned fire and killed Jansen. A third deputy was unhurt.

Court papers show Jansen's mother, 84-year-old Helen Jansen, had tried for years to get mental health treatment for him. Since 2009, the mother filed three petitions to have her son involuntarily committed to mental institutions. He was committed twice in 2010.

The court records paint a picture of a troubled man who once cut himself so badly he required more than 100 stitches and 37 staples to close the wounds. Another time Jansen stood in a road making obscene gestures at motorists. He claimed to be a Marine general and believed psychiatric medicine was "poison." His mother said he was verbally abusive and uncooperative her efforts to help him, according to the court records.

A psychiatrist wrote in 2010 that Jansen was bipolar, had manic episodes and was dependent on marijuana and alcohol.

Despite the finding, authorities have said it wasn't necessarily illegal for him to own the gun he used to shoot the deputies. Under Alabama law, person-to-person gun sales are largely unregulated and mental patients are only listed in a national database for background checks by firearms retailers in cases where a law enforcement officer has testified against the mental patient or the patient has a history of misusing firearms.

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