Family: Courtois is mentally ill and stopped taking medication

5:16 PM, Jul 24, 2012   |    comments
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(NEWS CENTER) -- The family of the man arrested on the Maine Turnpike Sunday says he suffers from mental illness and they tried to get him help.

Timothy Courtois's brother posted the following on one of our Facebook pages:
"Tim is my brother. He has suffered from bi-polar/manic state (my apologies, but I cannot remember the exact name) for a number of years. He has had episodes before but never anything violent. When he began to act erratically again, approximately 2 weeks ago I tried to talk to him and get him to get back on his medication which he had stopped taking. At that time he got very angry at me. At that time I called the Biddeford Police Department, who had already been to his apartment once or twice in the previous 48 hours, and told them that my brother was sick, incoherent, acting erratically, etc. They asked if he had threatened to harm anyone or himself. The honest answer to that was "no." I was also told by BPD that legally there is nothing they can do unless he threatened to cause harm. I was stunned by this as I knew that he was headed toward "something".  I know other family members talked to BPD as well as doctors, etc., and all were told "sorry, we can't force him to do anything." I put this out there because no mention of my brother's illness has been mentioned in anything in the news that I have read or seen. "
Cory Courtois went on to write, "Please understand that I am NOT defending my brother's actions, mentally ill or not. He made his decisions and will now have to deal with the fallout from them when he gets the help he needs. Please don't turn this into a gun control issue, or all about the Aurora, CO shooting. That just takes the focus away of the real story here: mental illness/bi-polar/manic is a devastating disease that not only affects the individual, but also that person's family, friends, co-workers, etc."
State Police say Timothy Courtois was driving 112mph on the Maine Turnpike with his emergency flashers on, when an officer pulled him over Sunday morning. State Police Spokesman Steve McCausland says they found an AK-47 assault weapon, four handguns and several boxes of ammunition, in Courtois' car.

Courtois told police he was on his way to Derry, New Hampshire to shoot a former employer. He also said he had been to see The Dark Knight Rises in Saco the night before, with a loaded gun in his backpack.

McCausland says police then searched Courtois's home, at 344 Elm Street in Biddeford, and found several additional guns, a machine gun, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Police believe that Courtois obtained most of his guns legally, although they say he did have one illegal automatic weapon. The investigation into exactly how he acquired such a stockpile of guns and ammunition remains open.

NAMI Maine, the National Alliance On Mental Illness, works with families of mentally ill Mainers to help them get the treatment they need.  Executive Director Carol Carothers says her agency has heard from many families over the years who are frustrated because they are unable to force a loved one into treatment.  The legal standard is that a person must either be unable to care for themselves or be considered a threat to themselves or others to be forced into treatment.  It's a recognition that people have the right to make their own health care decisions, regardless of their illness.  Carothers says stakeholders have gotten together many times over the years to see if there is a way to improve guidelines as to when someone can intervene, but, she said, "What generally happens when you have the conversation is there are great divides in everyone's view about how it should go."

NAMI does have a number of programs and support opportunities for people who have loved ones with mental illness. Their number is 1-800-464-5767.

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