by William Skink
One of the saddest parts of our broken mental health care system is the helplessness family members often feel as they watch their loved one spin out of control.
It is not unusual for family to hear from social services that involving law enforcement is necessary because once they are in the system more can be done, sometimes on an involuntary basis.
If a person is already in the system for, let’s say, threatening to beat a prosecutor to death with a baseball bat, and they are on probation for that crime, there is supposed to be a higher level of supervision that can step in when needed.
That didn’t happen with Jared Kuntz.
Kuntz is the 38 year old man accused of going on a rampage on Mt. Sentinel, beginning with fracturing a woman’s skull, terrorizing her 13 year old son, getting naked, then attacking two hikers, both UM students. Kudos to the student who had his Buck knife, because that’s what ultimately ended the attack.
Jared’s brother, Jacob, took to Facebook to provide an extensive, detailed account of the many steps he and his mother took to alert authorities to Jared’s “deteriorating” mental health. The letter in full will be pasted below the fold.
From my experience working at the shelter, the family members I talked to who were having the most difficult time were the ones who’s mentally ill loved one was just sane enough to NOT do anything too illegal to trigger legal intervention.
That is not the case with Jared Kuntz, he was on probation, and these were some of the steps Jacob took to sound the alarm:
In the Facebook post, Jacob Kuntz listed at least three instances across roughly a month before the Mount Sentinel attacks that he tried reaching out to the Missoula Probation and Parole office to raise an alarm about his brother’s troubling behavior.
Jacob Kuntz said he contacted the Missoula Police Department and an emergency mental health provider, but was ultimately told that patients cannot be involuntarily committed, but either court-ordered or volunteer themselves for commitment.
“I communicated with my brother and offered him that I will drive to Missoula and we would go together to the ER to get him help,” Jacob Kuntz wrote. “He refused.”
According to Jacob Kuntz, Jared threatened the lives of Jacob and his parents on April 10, the same day as the alleged assaults on Mount Sentinel. At approximately 5:30 that afternoon, Jacob Kuntz began to see reports of the Mount Sentinel incident that had begun hours earlier.
“The victims on the ‘M’ trail experienced tremendous trauma and suffering from horrible acts of violence that could have been avoided had these agencies responded appropriately,” Jacob Kuntz said, citing Missoula law enforcement and emergency psychiatric care providers along with the local probation office.
Jacob claims he was told his brother could not be involuntary committed unless it was court ordered, or his brother went voluntarily.
That is absolutely not true. If it’s an emergency situation where there is imminent risk, this is what Montana Code Annotated has to say:
53-21-129. Emergency situation — petition — detention. (1) When an emergency situation exists, a peace officer may take any person who appears to have a mental disorder and to present an imminent danger of death or bodily harm to the person or to others into custody only for sufficient time to contact a professional person for emergency evaluation. If possible, a professional person should be called prior to taking the person into custody.
(2) If the professional person agrees that the person detained is a danger to the person or to others because of a mental disorder and that an emergency situation exists, then the person may be detained and treated until the next regular business day. At that time, the professional person shall release the detained person or file findings with the county attorney who, if the county attorney determines probable cause to exist, shall file the petition provided for in 53-21-121 through 53-21-126 in the county of the respondent’s residence. In either case, the professional person shall file a report with the court explaining the professional person’s actions.
If you read Jacob’s letter, which I really hope you do, you may want to do some additional risk assessment as we navigate this NEW NORMAL world where Covid can be the simple excuse for everything wrong.
I can anticipate the excuses to sound something like, oh, well, gosh, sorry, our probation officers are working remotely, because Covid. And because they work remotely our voicemail system was being upgraded and no one got the message, because Covid. And everything about the already fucked up criminal justice system is going to be even more fucked up and non-responsive now because, you guessed it, COVID!
If you think I’m exaggerating, check out how Covid-related court adjustments supposedly led to the mistaken release of the dude arrested at Target for allegedly recording a boy peeing in the restroom:
A 38-year-old man arrested on suspicion of attempted sexual abuse of a child was released from the county jail Monday due to an apparent misunderstanding between the prosecutors and a judge in Missoula.
The mishap took place as the court system navigates communication changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our criminal justice system and mental health care system were bad enough before the pandemic, but if we’re already at a point where the basic function of probation and parole can’t be met, then it’s time to upgrade the leatherman I’m currently carrying on my hip to something with more stopping power.
Read Jacob’s full letter beneath the fold.
My name is Jacob Kuntz. The perpetrator of the heinous and senseless acts of violence committed on the “M” hiking trail in Missoula, MT on Friday April 10th, 2020 is my brother, Jared Kuntz. I am writing this in the hopes that the victims, their families, friends, and the community of Missoula, Montana will find true justice.
Jared Kuntz was under the supervision of Missoula Probation and Parole. Three to four weeks prior to April 10th, 2020, I called and left a detailed message for his Probation officer. I expressed to his voice machine that I felt my brother’s condition was “deteriorating”, and that if left un-checked serious problems would arise. I notified my mother as well, who also called and left messages of concerns with Missoula Probation and Parole. After not hearing back for multiple weeks, I checked in with Kalispell Probation and Parole (we share an office) and got contact information for Missoula Probation and Parole Officer Supervisor. I was told by the Kalispell Probation officer that all calls made to Probation and Parole must be responded to in 24 hours. I called and left a detailed message for Missoula Probation Officer Supervisor on Friday 4/3/2020 exactly 1 week before these unspeakable events happened, expressing my strong concern for my brothers deteriorating condition and that something needed to be done for fear that he and/or someone would be harmed and that he was violating the terms of his Probation, my mother also made contact attempts. Out of growing fears of serious harm to the community, I contacted Missoula Police Department on Saturday 4/4/2020. Given the nature of my concerns I was placed immediately to dispatch (911) and connected to a Missoula Police Department officer. I explained the nature of my concerns and my brother’s history and that if nothing is done there would be potential for significant harm to members of the community and/or himself. I explained that Jared was under the supervision of Missoula Probation and Parole and emailed the Police officer the threatening messages he posted on Facebook. My mother again reached out to Missoula Probation and Parole, getting the opportunity to speak with his Probation Officer. She expressed sincere concern for his mental health as it was deteriorating rapidly and expressed sincere concern for the public safety and again asked him to get in touch with me. Finally, on Wednesday 4/8/2020, 2 days before the atrocious crimes and several weeks after my first contact attempts, Jared’s Probation officer called me back. On this very day, my brother contacted me and was completely delusional, and I knew that harm was imminent. I explained everything to the Probation officer about my brother’s condition, history, and that once at this point it ends terribly and always has. I pleaded that something must be done. At this time Jared had threatened me and anyone else that came to his door to check on him, which I also notified the Probation officer of. I proceeded to contact Missoula Providence Psychiatry (emergency mental health provider with the hospital in Missoula, MT). I expressed my sincere concern about my brother’s mental state, that I was certain there was imminent harm to the community and himself, and my efforts to engage Missoula Probation and Parole and the Missoula Police Department. I was told that patients cannot be involuntarily committed, they must be court ordered or volunteer to come in, this is accessed through the hospital ER. I communicated with my brother and offered that I will drive to Missoula and we would go together to the ER to get him help. He refused.
DAY OF THE INCIDENT. At 1:00pm on 4/10/2020, My mother called me explaining a terrible call she received from Jared and that he was completely delusional and had threatened my life as well as harm to her and my father. Prior to calling me she called and left a detailed message for his Probation officer explaining the threat and that harm was imminent and that something must be done. Around 5:30 pm on 4/10/2020 I began to see the reports of the incident at the “M” Hiking Trail in Missoula, MT that began around 2pm.
My family I l did everything we could to stop this horrific situation, and our numerous desperate pleas for help to Missoula Probation and Parole, Missoula Police Department and emergency Psychiatric care were ignored. The victims on the “M” Trail experienced tremendous trauma and suffering from horrible acts of violence that could have been avoided had these agencies responded appropriately. What’s not included in this report is the countless hours we spent as a family encouraging/demanding Jared to get help and support, and I offered multiple times to go with him to treatment in Missoula despite his threats against my own life. I urge anyone who reads this to pursue action, whether you’re a journalist, a victim, a victim’s relative/friend, an attorney, an officer paid to protect and serve our communities, or any community member who feels they can help. Our hearts go out to all the victims, their families, friends and the community of Missoula, MT for this truly senseless tragedy that could have been avoided.