Desperation and a death on I-694 (5×8 – 1/18/2012)

Suicide and shameful secrets, the changed soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan, where do you get your news, the old gang at Target Center, and embracing winter.


On I-694 near McKnight Road in the Twin Cities yesterday, someone pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car, and lay down in the middle of the highway, where he was struck and killed by a truckdriver who didn’t deserve to live the rest of his life remembering the day he killed someone who killed himself.

It’s the third time in the last year that someone in the Twin Cities chose this method, not yet enough to warrant significant news attention, especially from a local newspaper that has spent an unusual amount of column inches over that time trying to debunk the diagnosis of some mental illnesses, especially in young people. The person in Maplewood was 22.

We cannot fathom the self-loathing that must accompany someone who not only wants to die, but believes he needs to die in one of the most painful fashions, and leaves the rest of us to try to search for meaning in all of this.

So, we’ve at least got that going for us; Good people are trying to understand, instead of pretending these things don’t happen, or treating it merely as a delay in traffic, no different than a stalled car in the breakdown lane.

Fortunately, there is John Moe, a talented and funny individual who tweets seriously only occasionally, and always for good.

“I believe depression/mental illness should not be hidden like a shameful secret,” he began last night, telling the story of his brother, Rick, who killed himself in 2007. Over the next several tweets, we learned that his brother was addicted to drugs and gambling. A friend of his described a brother John didn’t recognize, though he says he probably would have had Rick not pulled the trigger.

Read from the bottom up:


It doesn’t end there. Because John used a #RickMoe hastag, many of his thousands of followers started shared their own stories of siblings lost.

Which leads us back to the mystery person on I-694. Who was he? Why did he choose that moment and that place to “pull the trigger?” And how can the messages get through to those who are holding their own gun at this moment? And how can we, like John Moe, work up the courage to talk about it, report it and not hide it like a shameful secret?


Another high-profile killing spree by an Iraq war veteran is in the news today. A 23-year old man is suspected of killing four homeless men, stalking them before stabbing them to death.

It’s a familiar story. He joined the Marines after 9/11, and he came home a changed man.

Though it did not involve fighting, his job with the Marines’ 1st Medical Battalion was a notably grisly one. He was assigned to meet and inspect the wounded — both friend and enemy — when they were flown in from combat zones en route to the hospital.

“He came back totally changed,” Hays said. “It was almost like he didn’t care anymore. He’d get fidgety, he’d start shaking, spacing out. You’d see him staring off.”

Jesus Balbuena, Ocampo’s roommate at Camp Pendleton after his return from Iraq, recalled that he would “wake up screaming at the top of his lungs twice a week. He would have flashbacks.”

In Missouri this week, another veteran was shot and killed by police after threatening them with a rifle.

But even though he was excited, his family says there were also troubled memories of his previous deployment in Iraq. He was there for six months in 2007 and 2008. They say his haunting memories were overwhelming and difficult to express.

And earlier this month Benjamin Barnes was believed to be the man who shot and killed a park ranger in Mount Ranier park.

The mother of his toddler daughter sought a temporary restraining order against him, according to court documents.

She alleged that he got easily irritated, angry and depressed and kept an arsenal of weapons in his home. She wrote that she feared for the child’s safety. Undated photos provided by police showed a shirtless, tattooed Barnes brandishing two large weapons.

The woman told authorities Barnes was suicidal and possibly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after deploying to Iraq in 2007-2008, and had once sent her a text message saying “I want to die.”

And in Pennsylvania, prosecutors want the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reject an appeal that has indefinitely delayed the death penalty trial of a central Pennsylvania soldier who wasn’t allowed to present an insanity defense to charges that he killed two people during a sandwich shop robbery, the Associated Press reports.

Horner’s family and attorneys have argued the way he entered the store _ by banging on a rear door until an employee let him in, rather than walking in the front _ is eerily similar to the way he was trained to enter buildings in Iraq, to flush out insurgents. His estranged wife has told the AP that Horner often cried and talked of suicide, hid a loaded weapon in the couch cushions while watching TV, and sometimes attacked her in his sleep or insisted on going from room to room with a loaded weapon to “clear” their home of unseen enemies. They contend Horner, a father of two, was traumatized by searching for roadside bombs in Iraq seeing the bodies of children killed by artillery that cleared the way for his unit.

Connect the dots. Despite the best efforts, some veterans are returning to civilian life with significant problems. The Christian Science Monitor today assesses the problem:

The increase of multiple deployments in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has multiplied problems – as have funding shortages, says Belle Landau, executive director of the Oregon Returning Veterans Project.

“I have met several veterans who have served no fewer than nine tours of duty,” she says. “This is very different than it used to be. With two wars and no draft, we are relying on the National Guard and Reserves to serve combat missions in very dangerous war theaters.”

Noting that average age of a national guardsman or reservist is 30, and that 50 percent have children, she says, “This is going to impact families and will be a big issue for a long time.”


That’s probably a silly question to ask a public radio crowd, but more people are getting their news incidentally. People, according to this new Neiman Lab article, are getting informed almost by accident. And how you feel about the news, a study says, is partially dictated by how you found the news in the first place:

Yadamsuren has also found the route to discovery — not just the content of the news itself — provokes emotional reaction in readers. For instance, unexpected positive news feels better and more awesome than expected positive news.

“It seemed that the incidental element of discovering the news story strengthened the respondents’ reaction to the news item,” she writes in recently published research. “The respondents described the encounters as finding a treasure, unexpectedly learning something new, or unexpectedly encountering something that evoked their curiosity. All these reactions may also occur during general news reading, but the chance element is likely to make these reactions stronger.”

So, what kind of “news discoverer” are you?


Bill Beise is coming back, St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters reports. Beise, is the front-row seater at Minnesota Timberwolves games (when they were good) who acted like he was a coach. He’d kneel like a coach, roll up a program like a coach, and argue with referees like a coach. The Timberwolves (when they were good) even had a bobblehead in his honor.

Word is that guy perpetually dressed in a suit who became a Target Center trademark at Wolves games by exuberantly banging his program on the floor from his front-row seat could be returning to the arena after the economy sidelined him for a couple of seasons.

When the late Wolves’ Malik Sealy hit the most famous three-pointer in team history at the buzzer to beat the Indiana Pacers 12 years ago yesterday. Beise was in the pile.

In 2004, Sports Illustrated even wrote an article about him.

And then he disappeared (when the Timberwolves weren’t good). Maybe it has more to do with his day job — stock trader, some of the only people who’ve had worse years than the Timberwolves.


“It’s going to get cold!” the weatherpeople are blaring today, as if that’s a bad thing. You know who understands winter better than most people? Kids. This video from a father who took the kids out for a weekend in Aitkin is a perfect example.

Bonus I: The SOPA issue explained with fornicating animals, Oprah Winfrey, and JetSkis.

And there’s this…

SOPA opponents appear to be more creative in expression than its supporters.

Bonus II: The Cloquet City Council denied a funeral home a permit to use a new, greener cremation process that sends human remains into the sewer system. (Northland News Center)


Wikipedia is going dark today to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Google and other big Internet companies also oppose the legislation, which would compel service providers to block access to overseas websites that violate U.S. copyright laws. Today’s Question: Where do you stand on the Stop Online Piracy Act?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Google, Wikipedia and Reddit are just three of the 7,000 websites expected to block access to their content in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill has sparked outrage among Internet experts, and today we discuss the controversial legislation.

Second hour: Peer pressure often gets a bad rap, but what about when its power is used to promote positive outcomes? Journalist Tina Rosenburg explores how a range of different programs are using the power of social connection to better our world.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: The four leaders of the Legislature preview the coming session.

Second hour: Hear the words of the late Gov. Elmer L. Andersen on public service, corporate responsibility, racial and religious understanding. It’s an interview Gary Eichten recorded in 2000, and Gov. Andersen’s 2001 speech to the Minnesota Senate. Gov. Andersen died in 2004 at the age of 95, and was often called “Minnesota’s leading citizen.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Senate races and the South Carolina primary with NPR political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: People with autism in love.

  • Aaron

    FYI Google isnt blocking access today, they are just covering their logo, may want to pass that along to Kerri

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t have access to Midmorning. NewsCut in the morning originates from my couch.

  • Kevin Watterson

    That would explain the funky smell.

  • Oh man, lots of ugly news today. As a news discoverer myself, I have my regular feeds, many of which I’ll gloss over as there is little new. But will click through on a link and share on a subject that I think is underreported like redistricting or the voter ID issues.

  • ce

    City Pages publicly sent condolences yesterday to Adam Levy (frontman of Honeydogs and someone well known in the music scene arond here) on the loss of his son. What struck me was the Levy family’s language about the death – which I presume the folks at City Pages picked up when they wrote about it – “lost to mental illness.” Suicide is an ugly word, and in reality a symptom of the much larger issue and I was gratified, for lack of a better word, that the family was in a way forcing people to make the connection between the two.

    Suicide is the cause of death, but mental illness is the umbrella under which most suicides occur, and only when we start to acknowledge that – that in most cases these people, and those that love them, have fought long and hard against the disease which ultimately claimed them. Forcing that connection, making people acknowledge mental illness for what it is – a medical condition, not a social stigma – makes a huge statement and I hope more families who suffer this kind of loss acknowledge that.

  • Alison

    Another secret that leads many to suicide is a transgender identity. An incredible 41% of transgender people responding to a 2011 survey by the NCTE reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, and those are the ones who survived to respond to the survey.

    The pressure by family, friends, and society contirbutes heavily to trans people treating their gender identity as a shameful secret. Suicide by transgender people often results from the despair caused by a lack of acceptance by those around them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many transgender people who have made successful transitions. If you have a transgender family member, friend, or co-worker, please treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve. Allow them to live with integrity. It could be a matter of life and death.

  • Tyler

    Say what you will about the TV show “Glee,” – they’re doing some remarkable work in pushing boundaries of what’s acceptable on television. In the last episode, a character with Down Syndrome was portrayed from a first person point of view: we learned about Becky’s frustration with relationships and the stigma attached to her handicap.

    We also learned about another character’s father – Finn had been told that his father died a “hero’s death” in the first Iraq war, only to find out that Dad died a drug addict. When Finn asks his mother why she lied about his father, she replies, “The last few months of his life did not define him as a man.”

    Glee has the ability to talk about suicide in a meaningful way – I hope they get there.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.

    My current pain is more important than your future pain, which will likely last as long as you live.

    Of course this is not to deny that the tragedy and pain of severe depression is the major cause of suicide in our culture, and that compassion and treatment are absolutely essential.

    But we must acknowledge the reality that the individual who commits suicide is not only a victim of mental illness, but more often than not also a victimizer, albeit most often unintentionally.

  • Jim Shapiro

    The unstated – and more important – point of my diatribe on suicide is that survivors tend to move towards healing more rapidly when they are able to acknowledge their justifiable anger, as well as their sorrow.

  • Bob Collins

    //Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.

    I hear that from time to time but it depends on the neurological issues involved. Example. Look at the sky. What color is it? You probably see blue. Your brain tells you it’s blue. What if it’s really red. What would it take to convince your brain that it’s red?

    In many cases, asking a brain to think logically is like asking a brain to see a red sky when everyone else sees it blue.

    In those sorts of cases, it’s a brain that’s broken and it’s illogical to expect it to behave logically.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – Agreed that a damaged brain is not always logical.

    But selfishness does not imply lack of logic. Quite to the contrary. Simple logic leads to following self interest. I hurt, so I end the pain.

    Selfishness implies a lack of compassion. The inability, or choice, to think of anyone other than one’s self.

    That said, of course I echo your call for compassion towards the mentally ill.

  • Jim!!!

    Garrison Keillor should ask Al Franken about where his wikipedia page is today.

  • Thanks Bob for posting my video of my Boys and I at the Lake. It was a great weekend to live in Minnesota!