LAS VEGAS (AP) — The 43-year-old Gulf War veteran gunned down by Las Vegas police in a parking lot confrontation felt like his life was spiraling out of control and sought help from a veterans advocate days before he was killed.
Stanley Lavon Gibson suffered from cancer he blamed on his Army service, faced eviction from his home, and was due for sentencing on an assault charge after an argument with a Veterans Affairs doctor.
He also was taking painkillers, antidepressants and anxiety medications.
After recently having his disability payments reduced, Gibson called the Las Vegas Review-Journal seeking help.
"I'm a desperate man. I'm very desperate," he said in a Nov. 12 voicemail message to a reporter about fears that he and his wife would lose their home.
Gibson was put in touch with a veterans advocate, who told the newspaper he talked to Gibson last week and planned to start reviewing his case Monday.
But Gibson was shot by an officer early Monday after a report late Sunday of a man breaking into a northwest Las Vegas condominium. The Review-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/vwfSF1) Gibson may have been confused and trying to find his way home to an unfamiliar apartment where he and his wife moved Dec. 1.
Police said Gibson was unarmed, but that he rammed his vehicle into police cruisers that pinned his Cadillac in a parking lot.
Police supervisors decided to use a beanbag shotgun to shoot out at least one window of Gibson's vehicle to reach him. But when an officer fired the beanbag gun, another officer fired multiple bullets into Gibson's vehicle, the newspaper reported.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie promised an investigation, and refused to speculate about why the officer opened fire. Department spokeswoman Carla Alston called it "speculative" and "premature" to comment on details before the probe was complete.
Gibson's wife, Rondha Gibson, said her husband had run out of anxiety medication and was prone to paranoid delusions and anxiety.
Just two days before the shooting, police took Gibson to jail on a resisting arrest charge after he screamed at passing cars and accused his wife of conspiring against him.
Rondha Gibson said police told her Stanley Gibson would be seen by a doctor on a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation, but he arrived back home Sunday. Stanley Gibson told his wife he had taken out the trash and didn't remember going to jail.
His Army discharge shows he separated from the service in 1992 as a specialist, after three years of service with headquarters and headquarters company of the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment.
Department of Veterans Affairs medical records show Gibson underwent five surgeries for a form of adenoid cancer that left his jaw disfigured and had spread to a lung.
He alleged his cancer was linked to his exposure during Operation Desert Storm to depleted uranium from armor-piercing shells used by M-1 tanks.
The VA records show his cancer was diagnosed in 1995 and he was rated 100 percent disabled. But the VA's regional office in Reno told him in an Aug. 8 letter that his service-connected disability rating had been lowered to 80 percent. His disability payments were then reduced.
About the same time, a friend wrote to the VA, saying Gibson suffered from anxiety and depression and had tried to commit suicide twice this year.
An Aug. 9 note from a doctor at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System's North Las Vegas clinic said Gibson had recurrent cancer, should be considered fully disabled and should have a guardian appointed for his safety.
Several weeks later, security officers arrested Gibson during a confrontation with another VA doctor. Gibson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to one count of assaulting a federal employee and was scheduled for sentencing in February.
Veterans advocate Joe Tasby, a decorated Vietnam veteran and American Legion post commander, told the Review-Journal he spoke with Stanley and Rondha Gibson last Thursday about their concerns with the VA's handling of his case. He planned to review Gibson's VA and military records.
"I told him, 'I'm working with you. Just give me a little more time,'" Tasby said.
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System chief John B. Bright offered condolences to Gibson's family and said officials would review Gibson's case "to see what we can figure out."
"Any way you look at this, it's a tragedy," Bright said.