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Sister: Incident involving standoff suspect highlights plight of mentally ill in county

Sister: Incident involving standoff suspect highlights plight of mentally ill in county

Escambia County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man who fired a weapon at them on Wednesday during a standoff.

The man, identified as Dale Brown, was charged with aggravated assault.

His sister said this incident highlights the plight of the mentally ill in our county.

The shooting took place at a derelict home Brown was squatting in on West Avery Street.

A deputy's sworn affidavit says Brown shot at them as they tried to enter the house to remove him.

The story starts long before Wednesday's arrest.

According to Brown's sister, Tina Johnston, Brown lived in the home for more than 20 years thanks to the generosity of the previous owner.

When that owner died, the property was sold and he was evicted, but he kept coming back.

She said it's tough for her brother, who struggled with paranoid schizophrenia his whole life.

"I felt devastated because I felt like I failed him. I think he's been failed in general by society, you know?" Johnston said.

Brown's case is just a symptom of a larger problem, said Dr. David Josephs, Ph.D. with the Lakeview Center.

"We clearly do not have enough resources to meet the needs of these disorders," Dr. Josephs said.

There is a bright spot, he believes. Crisis intervention teams used by law enforcement are trained to deal with people with mental illness and drug dependency in crisis.

But Dr. Josephs said we have a long way to go before we deal with a national crisis.

More than 100,000 people a year die in the United States from mental health-related problems.

"Why can't we get traction on serious mental illnesses? It's because we don't have the focus and we don't pay attention to it, it's not that we can't do it, a significant amount of it is the funding," Dr. Josephs said.

The state of Florida fluctuates between 48th and 49th in the country for per capita spending.

Dale's sister said she hopes people will not see him for his faults but for his humanity and the help he needs.

"I hope he will be evaluated and be put on medication and, you know, taken to a facility that he can be cared for the proper way that he needs," Johnston said.

Brown is charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, armed burglary, and trespassing.

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