Mental health issues and flashbacks to his time as a soldier played a big part in a sentence given to a Pauls Valley area man who fired gunshots at his mother and her two dogs last year.
The case wrapped up this week for Michael Wayne Russell, 48, who has been facing criminal charges since a shooting incident on June 18, 2018 at the rural house he shared with his mother a few miles west of Wynnewood.
Russell used either a rifle or handgun when he fired shots at his mother and the dogs as they sat in a vehicle in front of their home. The woman was not hurt, while one dog was killed at the scene and the other died later.
A plea deal was reached this week as Russell's diagnosed psychiatric issues led to a sentence meant to help rather than punish.
Defense attorney Billy Vandever of Pauls Valley says he worked with prosecutor Corey Miner in the Garvin County District Attorney's Office to come up with a sentence intended to help Russell.
“Corey Miner agrees he's not faking it, and we're working together to help a guy who suffers mental health issues while serving his country,” Vandever tells the PV Democrat.
“We want to ensure he's taking the meds as he is supposed to.”
Weeks after last year's shooting incident a forensic psychologist evaluating Russell determined his mental issues are very real.
In fact, Russell has said he was once diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when evaluated at a veterans' hospital.
Vandever says the issues only started after Russell served in the military years ago.
“He demonstrated no mental health history before he was sent to serve in Afghanistan,” Vandever said.
“He was deployed to where they were in actual combat. Then he gets back there's problems.
“These veterans coming back are just not getting the help they need. They have real mental health issues.
“He was getting the meds but nobody was monitoring him.”
According to Vandever, these issues led to a couple of things setting Russell off on the day of the shooting.
His mother's two dogs were apparently one of those things.
“He said the Taliban would use those types of dogs in combat situations. When he hadn't been taking his proper meds his mother's dogs would bark and put him right back in those situations. He would flashback to combat mode.
“He was shooting at the dogs not his mother.”
Another was the alarm sound from the home security system at his mother's house.
“That alarm is what triggered him that day. Most of the stuff that happened he can't remember,” Vandever adds.
As part of the agreement Russell pleaded no contest to four criminal counts and given a 10-year sentence with all but one suspended. A key part of the deal is Russell was given credit for time already served, which began after his arrest on the day of the shooting.
Vandever said other measures are included to ensure Russell takes his medications and gets the care he needs, possibly through a veterans' program.