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In re D.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 15, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF D.M. Alleged to Be Seriously Mentally Impaired, D.M., Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Mark E. Kruse, Judge.

         D.M. appeals the court's ruling of serious mental impairment.

          Curtis Dial of Law Office of Curtis Dial, Keokuk, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.


         D.M. challenges the trial court's finding of serious mental impairment, claiming there is insufficient evidence that he poses a risk to his own or others' safety. In light of D.M.'s recent suicidal ideations, refusal to follow-through with mental-health treatment, a telephoned threat to a former employer, and the recent purchase of AR15 rifle, we find clear and convincing evidence to support the court's finding that D.M. poses a risk to himself or others. We therefore affirm.

         On August 8, 2018, D.M.'s septuagenarian parents sought assistance from law enforcement because D.M. was suicidal and had purchased a weapon. D.M. was hospitalized and evaluated.

         The evaluating psychiatrist, Dr. Amanda Winter, submitted an initial report on August 13 in which she stated: (1) D.M. was experiencing a major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse, and had antisocial and narcissistic personality traits that contributed to the risk of impulsive acts of harm to himself or others; (2) D.M. was not capable of making responsible decisions with respect to treatment; and (3) based on D.M.'s self-reporting, he was not then likely to harm himself or others. However, on April 14-the day of the involuntary commitment hearing- Dr. Winter submitted an amended report. Dr. Winter reported the need for more time to gather information and evaluate D.M.'s likelihood of harming himself or others, stating, "[B]ased on new information that continues coming to light, it is more and more likely that he is not being truthful about his intents and motivations."

         At the hearing on the allegations of serious mental impairment, Dr. Winter testified she spoke to several sources[1] who indicated D.M. had "significant suicidal ideation with a plan to use the gun to kill himself." D.M. had been engaged in psychiatric care with Dr. Sanchez and had agreed he would not purchase firearms but had then purchased an AR15.[2] Dr. Winter testified that upon learning of the purchase, Dr. Sanchez did not feel comfortable having D.M. as a patient. Dr. Winter further testified that "[d]ue to the severity of [D.M.'s] depression, along with the alcohol abuse and the effects of his wife's death," she believed that if left untreated, D.M. would be a danger to himself or others. She stressed D.M's "behavior is quite impulsive," and those with "poor impulse control are always left at increased risk for harming themselves or others due to unforeseeable circumstances and unpredictable stressors that come up."

         Lieutenant Brett Grimshaw testified concerning a report received just before D.M.'s hospitalization from D.M.'s former employer that D.M. had called and made threats. D.M.'s telephone call prompted the employer to have an armed deputy on the property and to request law enforcement provide security. Lieutenant Grimshaw testified law enforcement provided the employer active-shooter training that day as a result of D.M.'s call because "[t]hey demanded it" because many employees "didn't want to come to work."

         D.M.'s sister testified that though D.M. was "saddened" by his wife's recent death, he was not a danger to anyone. However, she testified she was not aware D.M. had recently purchased a firearm, that their mother had reported her concern for officers' safety should they go to D.M.'s house, or that D.M. was discharged from treatment with Dr. Sanchez.

         The court found clear and convincing evidence supported a finding that D.M. was seriously mentally impaired under Iowa Code chapter 229 (2018). The court noted Dr. Winters testified she believed D.M. was a danger to himself or others-though she "then indicate[d] she doesn't have sufficient statements before her or sufficient outside information" to determine whether D.M. was being truthful when he told her "I'm not a danger to myself or I'm not going to do anything." Still, the court concluded:

In this particular case, that outside information tips the balance because it's very clear that that information, if true, and I think it is true, that you made threats, put an entire business on alert of you coming after them, possibly with a gunman, so for that reason I believe that each of ...

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