The family says the suspect who shot up at the Omaha Target has struggled with mental health for years
OMAHA, Neb. (Nebraska)-The uncle of the 32-year-old man who drove a loaded AR-15 into a West Omaha Target store on Tuesday tells 6 News the man has struggled with mental health for years and his family has been searching to get him to help.
“He was a nice guy, he was a nice guy,” Larry Derksen Jr. says in an interview with 6 News in the home he shared with his nephew, Joseph ‘Joey’ Jones.
Jones was killed Tuesday after firing several shots inside Target.
“I don’t think in any way, shape or form that he had any intention of going into that store and hurting anyone.”
The community knows about Jones’ actions, but what they don’t know is his long history of mental health issues.
Derksen says Jones was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
“It started about 3 years ago. He came to believe the cartel was looking for him,” Derksen says.
Occasionally, Jones would pack up and drive to other states, only to return when he ran out of money. Derksen says he had frequent episodes and several times bought or came home with guns.
“The ground rules were that if you stay here you can’t have a firearm,” Derksen says. “You have to do the right things, drugs, alcohol, see a doctor, get medication. He’s been trying to do that for a while, but the rumors won’t stop.”
His family did what they could to help him. In one incident, Derksen says Jones demanded his gun back and Derksen called the police.
“I said ‘hey, my nephew is schizophrenic, he’s asking for his firearm, I’m not giving it back’ [but] they came here and by law they were required to actually return his firearm to him.
Subsequently, Jones left and was in and out of hospitals and facilities.
Several months ago, he drove to Kansas where he was arrested after lying on the highway. Derksen says Jones believed the cartel would kill his family if he didn’t commit suicide. He was then committed to another mental health facility.
“Over and over, you know his grandmother and I were trying to ask them, ‘hey, he needs help,’ and all they can really do is put him in the hospital for three days, keep him for three days, and give me medication.” “, He says. “But when you’re in severe mental distress and have a diagnosis like that, it wasn’t enough for him to be clear enough to make rational decisions.”
Two weeks before joining Target, Derksen says Jones quit his job — which he loved — and told the FBI he was facing some sort of harassment.
Last week, the FBI showed up at their duplex to talk to Jones.
“So here’s this long story of this 32-year-old man who has a history of being schizophrenic and there’s no help for him, no health insurance, nothing you need to get medication, no one is forcing him to do or get well, and then we get to what happened the other day and it is to be expected.
Derksen says he was out of town when Jones bought the AR-15 four days before showing up at Target with it.
“We didn’t know he had a firearm, if we did then we would have tried to get it from him or call law enforcement, but even that, how can you buy a firearm after being hospitalized repeatedly for being a paranoid schizophrenic ?”
Derksen says America’s systems are broken, but he also doesn’t excuse Jones’ behavior.
In a message to the community, Derksen hopes people understand what Jones and their family have been through.
“We are hurt as a family by the pain inflicted on everyone who was in Target, we hurt by the law enforcement officer who had to make that choice. We apologize for the incident. We are sorry for what happened and believe the officer did what he had to do,” he says. “I pray for the families who are suffering. I hope you all understand that there is a bigger problem, there is a mental health. It’s not a gun issue, in my opinion, it’s a mental health issue. Until we address this issue, we’re going to continue to see stuff like this happen.
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