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Judge orders psychiatric evaluation of veteran accused of murder

An Iraq War veteran arrested in a bloody attack on his neighbors in Reseda will undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
February 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
An Iraq War veteran arrested in a bizarre and bloody attack on his neighbors in Reseda will undergo a psychiatric evaluation. His lawyer argues he is unable to participate in his own defense.

Ricardo Tapia made his appearance in court Wednesday. He is charged with shooting his upstairs neighbors, killing an elderly man and injuring his wife. His attorney says the Iraq War veteran is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He still is experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations," said attorney William Paparian.

On December 20, Tapia had to be restrained by officers and put on a gurney after the shooting. His attorney says Tapia was in combat in the second battle of Fallujah, one of the fiercest battles in Iraq, and was knocked out in an explosion. Wednesday Paparian asked the judge for a psychiatric evaluation.

"I'm convinced that my client at the present time is not able to in a meaningful way participate in his own defense," said Paparian.

"It's not uncommon for defendants to have some mental issues, mental problems, during the course of a criminal case that do not rise to the level of declaring a doubt," said prosecutor Edward Nison.

The judge granted the psychiatric evaluation, putting all criminal proceedings on hold.

Paparian said all of this goes back before the incident on December 20. He says two weeks earlier Tapia was placed on a "5150" hold for mental issues, and the Department of Veterans Affairs didn't give him proper treatment.

"All they basically did was give him pills. They kept shoving pills at him," said Paparian. "He was taking a dozen and more pills a day. He wasn't receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress."

Michael Maloney is a U.S. Army veteran who now helps others dealing with PTSD. He says 200,000 former soldiers that are now home could be affected.

"[PTSD] has become such an epidemic problem that the VA system in and of itself really can't contain just how big of an issue this has become," said Maloney, founder of InterveRe intervention services.

The VA issued a statement: "We acknowledge that Mr. Tapia is one of our patients. Due to privacy laws we are unable to discuss patient care. We would however like to extend our deepest sorrow to the families of the injured and deceased."

Tapia will be back in court for a competency hearing on March 5.


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