A terrifying traffic stop caught on video shows a highly-trained and decorated war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder squaring off with police officers.
The officers were armed with guns and Tasers. The confrontation ended with a trip to the hospital and jail.
The war veteran, Kirk Shahan, is a Marine who was shot at plenty of times on the battlefield while serving his country overseas. Now, back home, he was Tased during a violent traffic stop in the suburbs of Detroit.
Shahan knows all about war. He credits one American flag for his survival during tours in Okinawa, Iraq and Kuwait.
"I carried it in my flack jacket in case something ever happened, that way I would be buried with the U.S. flag," he said.
He saw plenty of death on the battlefield.
Saw things people shouldn't see. I've done things people shouldn't have done. If I had done those things stateside, I would probably be in prison. Now, they throw a medal on your chest," he said.
Shahan carried his friends' bodies back to safe zones so they could have proper burials.
"They said we pick up our own, but we don't pick up any of the enemy," he said.
Shahan has the medals to prove it. He received medals for his service in Korea, Iraq and the war on terror. He is a real American hero who had one bad night on the streets of Van Buren Township.
New battle with PTSD
Shahan has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Make no mistake: He was in the wrong the night he was Tased and arrested. He was driving drunk, he was combative toward officers and was not taking any orders. He is lucky he was not shot by police.
Shahan admits all of it. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and an assault charge. However, he said this incident should be a call to action for first responders to be trained on how to deal with people diagnosed with PTSD.
There was a lot of heavy combat ... I've seen a lot of s*** over there. I've suffered anywhere from 12-16 concussions," he said.
Loud noises and confined spaces are just some of the triggers which cause a flashback for Shahan. He is instantly placed back on the battlefield.
"My heart is racing. My throat is up here. I can't breathe. I start panicking. I have a panic attack," he said.
When this happens, his wife Melissa calmly reminds him he is home and safe.
"You just try to be here for him when he does have a flashback to help him back to life, you know. 'Hey, you're safe, you're home, let's deal with what's going on now,'" said Melissa.
Melissa has learned to diffuse his PTSD episodes. The couple hope this video will convince police that PTSD training is good for everyone's safety.
"It's always after the fact and that's the problem. I want to be proactive about this instead of reactive," said Shahan.
What happened that night
In this case, Shahan had a military license plate which reads "VETREN." He was wearing a vest with military markings. There were signs for police to realize this was possibly a case of PTSD flashback. If police officers had PTSD training they may have approached him differently. A violent, dangerous arrest may have been avoided.
On the dashcam video, Shahan can be heard telling police officers to shoot him before they use the Taser on him.
"Come on, shoot me," he said.
Shahan fell to the ground, but he got up and can be heard saying, "Shoot me again." He argues with an officer who pleads for Shahan to get on the ground. He is eventually shocked again by a Taser, then taken to the ground by several officers.
"An officer should approach a veteran with PTSD, or any veteran because they may be suffering from it, with a calm demeanor in order to establish some sort of bond or trust with those individuals because this is the result," said David Helm, Shahan's attorney.
No officer wants to kill a war veteran during a traffic stop. In Michigan, there is no required PTSD training for police. Melissa said training works and first responders deserve to be trained to handle people like her husband who frequently have PTSD outbursts.
"Talk to the people. Let them know you're there. Let them know they're safe. Let them know they're home," she said.
Doctor digs deeper
Local 4's Dr. Frank McGeorge sat down to help us dig deeper into PTSD and what you can do to help those suffering from the disorder.
Watch the doctor's interview right here.
June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day
PTSD Awareness Day was established by Congress back in 2010. Then, in 2014, the U.S. Senate designated the entire month of June for National PTSD Awareness.
After a traumatic event, most people have painful memories. For many people, the effects of the event fade over time. But for others, the memories, thoughts and feelings don't go away - even months or years after the event is over. Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not. If stress reactions do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, it is important to seek help to determine if PTSD is present. The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and effective treatments. We can all help those affected by PTSD.
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