BAY MINETTE, Ala. (AP) – Authorities are investigating how an Alabama man committed to mental institutions twice in recent years was able to obtain a gun he used to kill a deputy and wound another during a shootout, despite laws that would have barred him from owning a firearm.
Probate records show Michael Jansen had most recently been committed in 2010 and was released that July. In both cases his mother sought his committal, once after he cut himself so badly with a straight razor he required 88 stitches and 37 staples to close wounds in his neck and arms.
Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell said records from January 2010 show Jansen had a history of mental health issues including bipolar disorder; manic episodes; and dependency on both alcohol and marijuana. A discharge letter from an area hospital showed Jansen had been treated and was improved enough to be released, he said.
Baldwin County Sheriff’s officials say Jansen killed Deputy Scott Ward and wounded Deputy Curtis Summerlin on Friday afternoon before the officers returned fire and killed Jansen. A third deputy was unhurt.
The man’s mother had called for medical help because Jansen was distraught, and medics called for backup when they could not subdue Jansen. The three deputies talked to the man for some time inside his mobile home in south Alabama’s rural Fairhope before the shooting.
“When they were talking to him inside, his weapon was invisible,” said Lt. Judson Beedy, an investigator assigned to the case. Jansen started shooting at the deputies at close range, Beedy said.
After Jansen fired, the four men were engaged in “close-range combat, he said.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is trying to determine who owned the gun and how it was obtained, said District Attorney Hallie Dixon. Federal law prohibits people from owning guns if they have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
Dixon said Jansen would have had to undergo a background check that could have uncovered his history of mental health problems if he bought the weapon at a store. But the man could have legally purchased the gun from another individual without a check, she said.
Probate records don’t show that Jansen had been confined for mental treatment since his release in July 2010. They also do not indicate anything about his mental state from then until the shooting.
Meanwhile, Ward’s funeral was scheduled for Tuesday morning at the civic center in Fairhope, across Mobile Bay from Mobile.
Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack choked up during a news conference while discussing the death of Ward, whom the sheriff described as a longtime friend.
“He was a friend and an exemplary deputy sheriff,” Mack said before stopping to regain his composure.
Summerlin was hospitalized in fair condition after two operations for bullet wounds in the arm and leg.
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