The son of an elderly South Carolina man who told a Veterans Affairs nurse that he wanted to kill the President says the VA failed his father.
Michael Stephen Bowden, 78, was arrested last week after a VA nurse asked him if he has suicidal thoughts and he responded, “Yes, I would like to shoot the President, then myself.” He repeated the threat to law enforcement when they showed up at his house.
His son, Kerry Bowden, tells TPM that his father was crying out for help, and that he was never a real threat.
“He was clearly acting out to get help. … Rather than get him that help, they [the VA] made it a law enforcement issue. They passed the buck,” Bowden said. “They’re now making him out to be a terrorist.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs was not immediately available.
According to Kerry Bowden, his father goes for monthly checkups at the VA to check on medication that thins his blood. In April, he says his father told a nurse he was having suicidal thoughts.
But the VA, he says, did nothing. The clinic didn’t contact Bowden’s family. His family had noticed he was having mood swings after going on a certain blood pressure medication, Kerry Bowden said. “He’d get aggressive all of a sudden, fly off the handle, get really upset about the smallest of things,” Bowden said. But they had no idea he was having suicidal thoughts. If they had known, Kerry Bowden said, they would have taken him to the hospital.
And when he repeated the suicidal thoughts this month, with the added threat to President Obama — who’s “not doing enough to help African-Americans,” the elder Bowden said — the VA nurse called the Secret Service.
But it was the Secret Service, Kerry Bowden said, which has treated him and his family well.
“We cannot say enough good things about these people,” Bowden said about the law enforcement officials who have been involved.
His father is now in Spartanburg County Jail, charged with threatening to inflict harm on the President and awaiting transfer to a federal facility to undergo a 45-day psychiatric evaluation, Bowden said.
It’s bittersweet, he said, that his father will finally get the help he needs.