Call to action: Veterans seek to boost awareness of PTSD

Veterans seek more awareness for police officers dealing with PTSD sufferers
Veteran Pat Allen talks outside of Eagle Point City Hall Tuesday evening. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

EAGLE POINT — A group of concerned military veterans Tuesday asked the Eagle Point City Council to consider training police officers there to deal with former soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The veterans approached the council in response to the death of Scott Chappell. Chappell, 44, died June 12 after a struggle with Eagle Point police at his home on Little Butte Drive.

Wayne Underhill was Chappell's squad leader when both served in Afghanistan. Underhill addressed the council and Eagle Point police Chief Vern Thomspon.

"We are not here to point fingers and blame the police for what happened," Underhill said. "We just want to open up channels to the local police department about how to deal with veterans suffering from PTSD."

The area's Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit is assisting the Sheriff's Department in investigating the in-custody death of Chappell. They do not know if a stun gun charge was responsible for his death and will await autopsy results to see if there were other possible factors.

The officers arrived at Chappell's home and found him acting erratically. Chappell's family told the officers they were concerned for his safety and asked officers to take him to the hospital.

The officers, Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and Mercy Flights medics on the scene attempted to escort him to a vehicle for transport to a hospital but were deterred when he began to struggle.

An Eagle Point police officer then used a stun gun to subdue Chappell. The electrical charge from the stun gun did not appear to have an effect. Chappell eventually was detained and placed in an ambulance.

On the way to the hospital, Chappell stopped breathing. He was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Underhill said combat veterans pose a challenge for police because they are "hard-wired" for survival in violent situations.

"A lot of these guys coming back have served multiple tours," he said. "With PTSD, many of them revert back to their training when they feel threatened."

Underhill described Chappell as easy-going and "big-hearted."

Pat Allen, chapter president of the Old Guard Riders, a motorcycle club created to raise awareness about veterans' affairs, said most soldiers with PTSD are more intent on hurting themselves than others.

"PTSD has been with us since World War II, when they didn't know what it was," Allen said. "We need more training for law enforcement to recognize soldiers with PTSD and be able to help them."

The veterans gathered outside City Hall after the meeting and discussed options to present before the council in the coming weeks.

They intend to conduct research on PTSD to present to the council.

Meanwhile, the investigation into Chappell's death continues. The results of an autopsy and a toxicology report are due in the coming weeks.

"It's a real sad story this had to happen," Allen said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.



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