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Police reports indicate Leicester suspect mentally ill - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Police reports indicate Leicester suspect mentally ill

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LEICESTER, Vt. -

Mental health issues may have been a factor in the alleged Leicester shootings Sunday. Police documents make reference to suspect Tim Foley's possible mental disorder. From the recent Fort Hood tragedy to incidents closer to home here in Vermont - police are responding to more and more mental health cases. Burlington's police chief says departments like his are doing all they can, but adds that by the time someone dials 911, it's often already too late to properly intervene.

This road in the small town of Leicester is the latest major crime-scene tied to a potentially mentally-ill suspect. Forty-seven year-old Tim Foley is accused of shooting his neighbor early Sunday morning and then opening fire on police when they came knocking. Just hours earlier, police records indicate Foley called police and reported hearing screams. Neighbors heard nothing, and told police Foley's mother told them he suffers from schizophrenia and went off his medication.
     
In a previous encounter with police last August, Foley falsely reported shooting his daughter and admitted hearing voices to police. Foley has a relatively minor, but lengthy criminal history.
In May 1994, prosecutors charged Foley with marijuana possession and later that year with misdemeanor domestic assault. In 1997 he pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and landed back in court in 2011, facing an excessive speed charge.
     
Vermont State Police also report eleven interactions with Foley as both a suspect and complainant in the last decade. State Police officials would not comment Monday on handling of cases involving the mentally ill, but Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling says caseloads are growing locally, across the state, and nationwide.

"We really need to have substantive mental health systems reform," Chief Schirling said. Schirling says only vandalism cases outnumber cases involving mental illness. He's seen a 400 percent increase in such calls over the past five years. Officers receive specialized training and added resources, but Schirling says more needs to be done on the front-end. "If folks' behavior is manifesting in a way that 911 is being called, we've missed the opportunities to intervene earlier," Chief Schirling said.

The recent Fort Hood tragedy rocked the nation, and the death of Thetford's MacAdam Mason and Burlington's Wayne Burnett led to calls for new efforts and legislation. Dr. Steve Runyan directs crisis services for the HowardCenter.  He says mental illness is far more prevalent than most imagine. "These are big headline stories right, and it's tragic, but there are tragedies just like this happening every single day that don't receive all the big press and could be improved by improving the mental health services," he said.

He says health professionals do all they can, but need more resources to extend more services. But he cautions no amount of prevention will eliminate the possibility of tragedy.

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