Distinguishing The Victims From The Abuser

Gilbert, PA
Fire damage can be seen on the side of this house . The home was the scene of a standoff that ended with a man being fatally shot by state police after he earlier fired a shot that hit a state trooper in the head. During the standoff, he took his mother and two others hostage and set fire to the house. Keith R. Stevenson/Pocono Record

The mother of the Gilbert, PA man who was shot dead by police during a standoff Thursday said her son was a victim of bath salts and that the addictive hallucinogen ultimately drove him over the edge.

While I don’t purport to understand the mysteries of a mother’s love, and certainly sympathize with her tragic loss; I’m finding it difficult to agree with her contention that her son was the victim.

Maybe a twelve year old who, out of curiosity, had  mistakenly fallen prey to a widely known synthetic hallucinogen that mimics the effects of cocaine or methamphetamines (which they could legally purchase from a corner store) would have been a victim. But not a twenty-nine year old man who should have been, and was by all accounts, aware of the risks. He was not the victim here. He was the abuser.

I wish the bereaving mother had succeeded in getting her son into a rehab. Perhaps, then and there, they could’ve gotten to the root cause of, and the fix for, whatever was ailing him. Moreover; I wish the law, PA Senate Bill 1006, that made the sale of this toxic waste illegal had taken effect immediately, instead of sixty days after its signing. It would have been a clear violation of his parole.

Because it wasn’t, the police had no legal grounds upon which to arrest him. And because they couldn’t; a known drug abuser had the licensure to abuse his drug of choice, and the real victims became a women who was taken hostage by her own son in her own home, a State Trooper who was shot in the head, and the police officers who were forced to shoot and kill a twenty-nine year old man who I’m certain had no idea of what he was doing.

Oh yeah! And anyone else who’s anxiously waiting for August 23rd!

One Reply to “Distinguishing The Victims From The Abuser”

  1. Hi BJ,

    I read this last week and have been ruminating on it ever since.

    Because I have personally had to deal with a loved one and her substance abuse, I know that it’s never a straight line from the recognition of the problem through to its resolution — whatever that may be. There are always false starts, denials of the problem, and relapses along the way. It’s easy to blame the abuser. I know that I have.

    However, if substance abuse is in fact a disease, then there is room for the grieving mother to see her son as a victim, despite what he did while under the influence. Does being under the influence exonerate the young man? Of course not, but like many cases involving substance abuse, there are victims all around.


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