Sheriff says law enforcement has become America’s default mental health agency


FLAGLER COUNTY, FL – After an armed standoff between the Flagler County SWAT Team and a mentally troubled man, Sheriff Rick Staly said law enforcement has become the default mental health agency to deal with mentally ill patients in public.

Staly said due to funding cuts and lack of resources, it’s police officers who are left to deal with members of the public suffering from long term mental health issue and sometimes, those interactions are violent.

“Unfortunately law enforcement has become the default mental health agency due to the lack of funding and resources available,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “In these dangerous instances, our deputies did a great job using their training to safely de-escalate these incidents and resolve them without anyone being injured. I’m very proud of our team and thank them for successfully resolving back-to-back dangerous encounters.”

He made the statement after SWAT team response was necessary for one such encounter this week.

On April 15, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) responded to 1730 Berrybush Street after dispatchers received a call from a neighbor who said they could hear gunshots coming from inside the home.

The FCSO K9, SWAT, and Patrol immediately responded and established a perimeter around the home. Eventually, the SWAT team was able to enter the residence, make contact with the man, and detain him. A search of the house recovered multiple firearms, ammunition and a house that was riddled with bullets from inside the home.

A man who claimed to be a veteran was claiming to be seeing “enemies in the tree lines”

When questioned, the man told deputies that he was a military veteran and had “seen enemy in the tree lines” and that he was “ready to go to heaven.”

“Based on the circumstances and statements made on the scene, the man was secured under a Baker Act and transported to Halifax Hospital,” Staly said. “Further investigation revealed he was a Vietnam War veteran and was having flashbacks.”

Two days later, police encountered another mentally ill subject,

Two days later, dispatchers received a call from a woman saying that her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Bourke was refusing to let her collect her belongings and was threatening to harm her via text messages and threatened to attempt ‘suicide by cop’ if she called law enforcement.

FCSO Deputies, K-9, and SWAT responded to Bourke’s residence on 130 Breeze Hill Lane and established a perimeter. Negotiators made contact with Bourke on the phone and attempted to persuade him to come outside, to which Bourke replied, “I ain’t going peacefully.”

Throughout the incident, Bourke was tappng on his windows, hanging out windows, and running in and out of his home in an attempt to engage with deputies.

Bourke was finally, taken into custody when he came outside of his residence and was struck with a non-lethal round, immobilizing him. Bourke was then transported to the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility and charged with Written Threats to Kill and Domestic Battery. He is being held on a $15,000.00 bond.

“This is not Bourke’s first encounter with law enforcement. Bourke has a criminal history in Flagler County dating back to 2008 for multiple charges including Driving Under the Influence, Robbery, Resisting an Officer with Violence, Aggravated Assault, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Sale of a Controlled Substance,” Staly said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24-hour by calling 800-273-8255. Locally, Stewart-Marchman Act Crisis Center is available. Their crisis line is 800-539-4228 and is available 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1.

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