ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A mother is begging the state to keep her developmentally disabled son off the streets before he hurts someone or gets himself killed.
Mitchell Rockwood has had dozens of encounters with Albuquerque Police over the last two decades. Mugshot after mugshot has made the news, but his mom says the public isn’t getting the full picture.
“It’s humiliating. It’s embarrassing because the community doesn’t understand mental health,” said Cynthia Manthey, Rockwood’s mom.
She said her son threatened to commit suicide at just 6-years-old and that he’s been diagnosed as bi-polar and autistic and has delusions about police.
“His paranoia with the police, he’ll call 911 and tell them he’s going to come down and smash out their windows,” Manthey said of her son. “He likes to throw rocks and call 911.”
Rockwood has been behind bars on charges that include battery on a police officer, 911 calls for false claims, and disorderly conduct.
However, time after time, charges are dismissed after he’s found incompetent to stand trial. He’s released until it happens all over again.
“He needs help. He doesn’t need to be let out into the streets,” his mom said.
She’s thankful, though, for people like Detective Bonnie Briones with the Albuquerque Police Department Crisis Intervention Unit. Briones is assigned to Rockwood’s case.
“More than half of his adult life has been spent at New Mexico Behavioral Health or jail and, mostly, it’s been at jail,” Det. Briones said.
During his time at jail, Briones said she and others with the Crisis Intervention Unit have made a habit of visiting Rockwood regularly in an attempt to get to know him better and to get him more familiar and comfortable with police. Unfortunately, she said, that hasn’t seemed to change things after he’s released from jail.
“Everything we’ve tried in the past—taking him to the hospital, taking him to jail, getting him services, getting him housing, case management—anything like that has not worked,” Det. Briones said.
This time, however, Det. Briones says there’s another option.
He’s been in jail for a year since his most recent arrest, but this summer Rockwood was found to be developmentally disabled and not treatable to competency.
The District Attorney’s Office and the Albuquerque Police Department believe Rockwood’s developmental issues qualify him under state law to be civilly committed, which they say would allow him the services he desperately needs, like going to a secure group home because he can’t live on his own.
“Now, we’ve gotten to the point where we can have this treatment option for him. We can break this cycle,” Det. Briones said.
“If Mitch doesn’t go, he’ll be back in jail in a week,” Rockwood’s mom said. “He won’t last.”
Civil commitment is at the State Health Secretary’s discretion because Rockwood’s charges don’t include serious violent offenses like murder or rape. In an email last week, the Department of Health denied the request, saying “he’s not appropriate for such commitment.”
They pointed to the county, saying Rockwood might try assisted outpatient treatment, but his family and police say they’ve already exhausted all other options.
“He needs the stability of full-time care, and he needs the stability of seeing the same people over and over again,” Det. Briones said.
“Do you see any other option at this point?” KRQE News 13 asked the detective.
“Not at this point,” she responded.
Rockwood’s family is making one final plea, hoping the state will reconsider before Rockwood gets into a deadly encounter with police.
“Do we really want that all over the news?” his mom asked.
“I’m afraid that either Mr. Rockwood or a citizen of Albuquerque or a police officer will get hurt,” Det. Briones said.
“It’s a terrible situation for them and for him,” Rockwood’s mom said.
The Health Department would not tell KRQE News 13 why it denied the request to pursue civil commitment, citing patient privacy laws.
Rockwood’s mom expects him to be let out of jail soon.