LEESBURG — Tim Tompkins, an Iraq war veteran who has been struggling to cope with stresses created on the battlefield, is now headed to a hospital to be evaluated and to receive the care he needs, Leesburg Police Chief Charles Moore said Wednesday.
Tompkins caused school officials in Lee County to lockdown schools Wednesday morning after he wandered away from home following a confrontation in which he reportedly threatened to hurt himself.
Believed to have been armed with a knife, Tompkins was found a friend’s house on River Road just after noon and was placed into protective custody without incident. Moore said Tompkins is a veteran who needs help dealing with the stresses of combat and that he won’t be facing any charges.
“He’s a man who saw a lot of things in Iraq that he’s now having trouble dealing with,” Moore said. “And the worst part about it is that he tried to get help through the VA hospital in Dublin but they wouldn’t take him. ... Now, if you need help, and you try and get help and are turned away, that’s just wrong.”
Moore said that Tompkins suffers from what is believed to be post-traumatic stress and is prone to having flashbacks of Iraq.
When he disappeared Wednesday morning and was believed to be armed, Lee Primary School went into lockdown and, according to the Lee School system, “that caused a domino effect and every school in the system” followed suit as a precautionary measure.
Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, Tompkins posted on his Facebook page “I see dead ppl,” which prompted one of his friends to ask if he was losing his mind.
“Yea I am,” he replied.
His social media page lists his education and his employer as “USMC,” or the U.S. Marine Corps.
Veterans returning to the U.S. with some sort of psychological infirmity is a common occurrence in the post-9/11 world, according to the veterans’ advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense.
According to a 2010 hearing before Congress, officials from the group told legislators that 313,000 veterans who had been deployed at least once into a war zone had been diagnosed by the VA with at least one mental disability upon their return.
Drilling down further, the group says that 171,000 of those veterans had been diagnosed with actual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In 2010, the group says, 84,000 veterans were awarded disability claims through the VA for treatment of PTSD.
The group also points to a 2009 study done by Stanford University that concluded that as many as 35 percent of returning veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD.
That data conflicts with a 2008 RAND Corporation study published on the VA’s website of veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom that says that PTSD was discovered in roughly 13.8 percent of the 1,938 participants of the study.
Staff writer Terry Lewis contributed to this report.