Broken Mental Health System Puts COTA Bus Driver's Life In Danger
The Sussi Report has learned that on February 24, Columbus Division of Police officers seized that same pink 9mm handgun from Bettie J. Smith that she pointed at the head of a COTA bus driver Tuesday and forced him to drive her without paying.
According to the incident report, officers were dispatched to a group home at 1909 Sullivant Ave. for a disturbance call. Smith, 36, told the officers she got into an argument with her roommates and “threw water with bath soap on the floor so they would slip and fall.”
The report states that Smith’s caseworker from Southeast Healthcare happened to be at the house to conduct a site visit when officers arrived on the scene. Smith told the officers that she suffers from depression but is not on medication. Officers asked Smith to accompany her caseworker to Netcare Access, a non-profit mental health and substance abuse crisis intervention center, and get a mental evaluation. Smith agreed.
As Smith packed her bag, she admitted to the officers that she had a loaded handgun. Smith told the officers that she had purchased the gun legally for protection.
According to the report, the officers took possession of the handgun, determined it was not stolen and turned it into the CPD Property Room.
When did the Columbus Division of Police return the handgun to Smith? And why did CPD return the handgun? The Sussi Reported contacted CPD Wednesday afternoon for some answers. The Division’s Public Information Officer, Sgt. Jim Fuqua, said he will look into it.
The Sussi Report also contacted Southeast Healthcare. Did they follow up with Smith about the handgun CPD officers seized on February 24?
As you will discover in our investigation, the more pressing question is why does a woman with a history of mental illness have a firearm? And, if purchased legally, as Smith told police, who sold her the weapon and when?
The Sussi Report learned that on March 27, just ten days before Smith held a COTA bus driver at gunpoint, CPD officers pink-slipped Smith and transported her to Mt. Carmel in Franklinton for a mental health evaluation. (The term pink-slipped means that if a law enforcement officer believes a person is unstable and could be a danger to themself or others, the officer has the authority to have that person admitted to a hospital for a mental evaluation.)
According to the police report, Smith told officers that she wanted them to drive her to the YMCA family shelter on Van Buren Drive “to fight with the staff.” Smith told officers that she was suicidal and “would take pills” to kill herself.
The Sussi Report contacted the Mount Carmel Health Systems’ Media Relations Office Wednesday to learn when they released Smith. Samantha Irons, who works in the Media Relations Office, emailed this response. "Patient privacy laws prevent us from speaking about any specific patient or the care provided."
A CPD incident report filed on February 3, 2021, gives us an alarming look into how people like Bettie J. Smith fall in between the cracks of a broken mental health system.
Smith told the officers that she spent four days at a Cincinnati hospital for “having suicidal thoughts.” She said the hospital provided her with a Greyhound bus ticket to Columbus. Smith told the officers that she was homeless and “feeling suicidal."
The report shows that the officers transported Smith to Netcare Access for a mental evaluation.
Smith is charged with abduction and was arraigned this morning at the Franklin County Municipal Court. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 14. Smith remains at the Franklin County Jail on a $50,085 cash/surety bond.
Attached are copies of the Columbus Division of Police reports.
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