It has been quite an alarming week for the world and for our community here in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We saw the news of the murders in Pakistan and Australia. In our own community we suffered the murders of six people and the killer remained at large for a time.
SWAT teams and high alert in our suburban Philadelphia neighborhoods
In the past few days we have had schools closed, communities put on alert, armed SWAT teams walking through neighborhoods, dogs on patrol and a general state of high alert called.
All this activity occurred because a gunman had killed a young woman and then tracked down her family at their residences and killed all of them either by gun or by knife. His outrage and onslaught immobilized our entire community and left many families frightened, hypervigilant and nervous to walk the streets or leave their homes.
The first murder occurred early Monday morning.
As the story unfolded, a total of six family members were dead and the killer was being sought after for an entire day. Eventually his body was found near his home. His name was Bradley Stone. He was 35 years of age and a former Marine on tour of duty in Iraq.
In a heated custody battle, Bradley Smith had apparently threatened his wife and then carried out his threat by killing her and five of her family members. Fortunately, he left his own 2 small children at the home of a neighbor. Though physically safe, they are emotionally traumatized since it appears they witnessed their Mom’s death at the hands of their Dad.
No information has been released as to any specific evaluation of Mr. Bradley’s mental health.
Although, it is certainly clear he acted irrationally and caused a wave of terror throughout his family and the entire community. Truly this has been a tragedy of huge proportions and it leaves us all a bit shell-shocked.
For our staff at Lakeside, two of the murdered family members were individuals that we had a previous relationship with, which has caused us another level of grief and loss.
I think this incident sheds a lot of light on the fact that not only do military veterans need help but also their families.
Apparently, in this situation there was a lot of marital discord and eventual threats of violence during a very nasty custody battle. Smith’s wife had expressed her fear of him attacking her on several occasions. As it turns out she had good reason to be afraid.
We have heard so much on veterans and their needs. I am glad some things are beginning to happen on this front. However, there needs to be much more.
Yet there is equal need for the families of our veterans because they sometimes have to adjust to a personality that they are unfamiliar with. A veteran’s return home often requires a period of transition. We really need a plan to help veterans and their families with multiple transition issues as they learn to adapt to a whole new world even within their families.
Every situation that erupts like this gives us yet another public glimpse at the very complicated and difficult set of situations facing the families of veterans.
Hopefully, we can use these situations to put together some ideas with relationships that will help these families adjust, cope and transition effectively. We send to these families our thoughts and prayers during this significant time of loss.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network