• October 31, 2014

No place immune from standoffs between police and combat veterans

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Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014 4:30 am

Standoffs, however rare, between police and combat veterans can really happen anywhere – even along the windswept plains of northwestern North Dakota.

I covered one such story in September 2010, when Brock Savelkoul, an Army veteran with a Purple Heart and three tours in Iraq under his belt, entered a convenient store in the small town of Watford City.

Police said Savelkoul entered the store carrying a rifle and a handgun and pointed the handgun at people inside and outside the store.

That led to a car chase between the combat vet and seven law enforcement agencies, with the former soldier’s car eventually running out of gas.

During a two-hour standoff, shots were fired; Savelkoul threatening suicide armed with an AR-15 rifle, three handguns and two other rifles, according to police.

Eventually, police used a Taser to take the combat veteran down and arrest him.

I spoke with Savelkoul’s sister, who told me the Army medically discharged him five months before the standoff. He had been in the Army seven years.

She told me her brother was injured in Iraq when a bomb exploded near him, causing brain damage. "We never got the same boy back after Iraq," she said, adding he suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Such cases are stressful situations for all involved, especially the families of both the veterans or police officers who get hurt.

The charges against Savelkoul was eventually dropped as he sought treatment and healing, and thankfully, in his standoff with police, no one was shot or killed.

Unfortunately, they don’t all end that way.

But with each incident that happens, the need to treat our veterans’ mental health – no matter the cause or other contributing factors –becomes that much greater.

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