Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Warn the neighbors, please, when a ‘son of Satan’ escapes

Post by Cheryl Tucker on March 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
March 8, 2011 5:49 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Not to second-guess state officials . . . well, maybe this once.

When a psychiatric patient calls himself “the son of Satan,” and the Department of Corrections considers him “delusional, paranoid and dangerous,” it should occur to authorities that the public might want to know he’s escaped from Western State Hospital.

Perhaps people would like to see a photo of the fellow on TV or online so that if they spot him, they could call police and take precautions – especially when their kids play in a park or go to school within a stone’s throw of the psychiatric hospital. If they signed up for emergency alerts, an escape like this is the sort of thing they might appreciate being told about.

Those people, and ones who live in the Lakewood/Steilacoom neighborhoods near Western State or shop at the Albertson’s down the street might be somewhat miffed if they were to hear about Satan Jr.’s escape a few days afterward.

Oh, wait. That’s exactly what happened.

Jonathan D. Wilson had been in prison for second-degree robbery. After his release, he was receiving mental health treatment in Snohomish County and become infatuated with his caseworker. When she didn’t return his affections, he torched her car with a Molotov cocktail. He was involuntarily committed to WSH in January.

According to the DOC alert issued after Wilson’s escape from WSH Friday morning, he believes he has permission to kill people at random.

Random people might want to know that. But few learned about Wilson’s escape until after he was picked up the next day when someone reported a man who appeared to be drunk in Tacoma’s Wright Park. Most people probably didn’t learn about it until Sunday.

The Department of Social and Health Services is now saying that Wilson didn’t pose a threat, that the public at large wasn’t in danger. That seems to be at odds with the language in the DOC alert that went out to law enforcement – especially that part about killing people at random.

A cynic might suspect that the agency was hoping to find Wilson quickly and keep his escape quiet to avoid embarrassment.

DSHS is investigating how Wilson was able to just walk away from Western State. It should also look into providing more information to the public – and quickly – when potentially dangerous people are on the loose.

News organizations and Pierce County’s alert system should be able to get the word out as soon as possible.

*
The News Tribune now uses Facebook commenting on selected blogs. See editor's column for more details. Commenters are expected to abide by terms of service for Facebook as well as commenting rules for thenewstribune.com. Report violators to webmaster@thenewstribune.com.