As the Santa Monica Police Department confirms it once placed a teen-aged John Zawahri on a "psychiatric hold", a retired officer recalls that day back in 2006 when she went to the family home to take him into custody. Cristina Coria, at the time on assignment to Santa Monica schools, says she responded to the father's home along with other officers. She describes the younger Zawahri brother, then 16 or 17 and a student at Olympic High continuation school, as "cold." Coria says he wore military-like clothing and was clearly unbalanced. While Santa Monica police are releasing few details on the juvenile, Coria says the teen had made threats "to staff and other police officers." She says the search warrant was for "weapons and possibly explosive devices." She is unclear as to what evidence was seized as she dealt with taking Zawahri into custody. He was held under a 72-hour "psychiatric hold", Sergeant Richard Lewis confirmed to Reuters. Sources tell me he was held for a longer period of time.
This was not the first encounter for Coria. She recalls speaking to a class at Olympic High about bullying a few months prior during which Zawahri sat in the back, again wearing all black, military-style clothing and trench coat. Coria says a fellow officer informed her later that day that they were watching Zawahri and had concerns about his mental well-being.
When news of the shooting happened and the suspect identified, Coria was horrified, but not surprised. She feels officers have limited power beyond a psychiatric hold. She says it's up to hospitals and doctors to determine if a patient is stable enough to be in the community. The shootings bring back the debate over mental illness, treatment, access to guns and a host of other societal issues. Coria is calling for more awareness and services on mental health. She says if anyone sees signs of a problem or unusual activity to tell someone.