Letters to the Editor
July 31, 2015
Let’s Try to Help
To the Editor:
Re the July 17 article: Man Stopped by police hits officer, in VC Jail on $205,000 bail: Those who know me are aware that I am a strong supporter of local police. Their job is often difficult and sometimes dangerous. I have had military police duties and understand.
Let’s be thankful for the cool headedness of Officer Swanson because this incident ended without the death of Dominic Diaz who struck him in the face.
My wife and I have known Dominic’s mother for many years; she is a highly respected local business owner who has raised three children as a single mom. A single mother’s life is difficult, but her’s was especially so because Dominic was diagnosed with “Obsessive Compulsive disorder and Schizophrenia” at age 13. He hears voices and is sometimes out of touch with reality; he fears electricity and unplugs the appliances.
His obsessive compulsive disorder once led him to steal a cheap cigarette lighter. Dominic also has a paranoid obsession over being touched. This combination led to his only arrest—for petty theft and resistance while being searched. But this “prior” will likely follow him for a lifetime.
The latest incident was also due to mental issues. He was homeless, on a bicycle towing a trailer containing several items of his own property. Due to several recent thefts in the area by others, he was stopped, searched, and then arrested for resisting. Resisting an officer is a crime but a paranoid person is incapable of thinking this through.
I don’t know Dominic but have seen him enough to recognize that something is very wrong. He seems highly intelligent, but is among the many thousands of Californians who have severe mental illness. Remember when Governor Reagan closed our mental hospitals? He announced that he would be “sending the patients home to their families.” Well, they have arrived. And their families have a terrible burden.
Our police also have a terrible burden; even officers sensitive to needs of the mentally ill cannot quickly ascertain what to do. I’m a retired secondary teacher and am reminded of times when I should have been more understanding. There is enormous need for training. Ventura County Mental Health would probably provide workshops.
I called Dominic’s mother to let her know that I had written this letter. She told me that she had taken money to the jail so he could call. He called and announced, “Mom, I’m in jail”, having forgotten that she was aware of where he was. Some will say that jail is where he belongs but I say—There, but for the grace of God, go each of us.
Delton Lee Johnson