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Hallucinations Prompt McLean County’s First 'Red Flag' Gun Seizure Case

Chief at a podium
Ryan Denham
“It turned out as well as you could hope for,” Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner told WGLT about the 74-year-old's case.";s:

A 74-year-old man from Normal whose hallucinations police feared put the public at risk will return to court next month in hopes of getting his guns back—McLean County’s first use of the state's new “red flag” law.

The Firearms Restraining Order law went into effect Jan. 1. It allows police or concerned relatives to ask a judge to take away a person’s guns and Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card for up to six months. The plaintiff must show “clear and convincing evidence” that the person poses “a significant danger of personal injury to himself, herself, or another by having in his or her custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.”

That’s what happened March 12. Normal Police responded to the 74-year-old man’s home in the 700 block of North Main Street in Normal, not far from several Illinois State University off-campus student apartments. The man, who was known to have rifles around his home, said several people were on his property banging on his fence, court records show. The man told police he “would defend himself if he had to,” police said. 

Police didn’t see anyone and became concerned about the 74-year-old’s mental health, records show. The man “admitted that there is a possibility that the medication he is taking (for a hip injury) is causing him to hallucinate,” Normal Police officers wrote in their request for the firearm restraining order. He was transported to the hospital for mental health treatment, police said.

“His hallucinations are a serious threat of physical violence against anyone who might walk by or be lawfully present near his home and poses a clear and imminent risk of serious physical injury to himself, and other persons,” Normal Police wrote. 

Judge Rebecca Foley agreed. After a search warrant of the man’s home, Foley ordered that the man could not possess or buy guns (and must turn over his FOID card) until a March 25 hearing.

At the March 25 hearing, Foley ordered that the 74-year-old was prohibited from having or buying guns until June 21. That was recently extended to July 11, when a hearing in the case is scheduled.

The 74-year-old’s son was allowed to retrieve his father’s guns from Normal Police upon presentation of a valid FOID card, said Helen Ogar, who’s representing the 74-year-old man in the case. She said her client willingly showed officers where to find all of his guns when they came to collect them. 

“It turned out as well as you could hope for,” Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner told WGLT on Monday. “It worked how it was intended to work.” 

WGLT is not using the man’s name because he has not been accused of a crime. 

“He’s OK with it,” said Ogar. She said the episode “brought (the 74-year-old’s situation) to everyone’s attention” in his family.

“He’s lovely,” Ogar said. “He was just having some health issues. He went on some medications that maybe made him not as sound as he could be. We’re dealing with those as an underlying issue. And we treated it more like a social work issue than a quasi-criminal case.”

Fifteen states (including Illinois) have these so-called extreme risk protection order laws, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“This vital tool saves lives by allowing the people who are most likely to notice when a loved one or community member becomes a danger to take concrete steps to disarm them,” the center says.

Illinois’ Firearms Restraining Order law was signed into law by former Gov. Bruce Rauner in July 2018. State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, supported the bill. Other local lawmakers opposed it, including Rep. Keith Sommer and Sens. Jason Barickman, Bill Brady, and Chapin Rose.

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Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
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