Sheriff urges for mental health system improvements

SAN DIEGO – The day after two of his deputies were shot by a person he described as mentally disturbed, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore called for improvements in the nation’s mental health system and universal background checks for anyone seeking to buy a firearm.

Sheriff Gore health graphic“I am tired of driving to San Diego not knowing if my deputy is going to live or die,” Gore said Thursday. “There’s not one solution to curbing this violence, but there are common-sense steps we can take to make it safer for my deputies and the public.”

Deputy Colin Snodgrass, 27, was shot in the leg, and Deputy James Steinmeyer, 31, suffered a grazing wound to the head in what Gore said was a confrontation with 22-year-old Evan Kim Tian Kwik at Kwik’s mother’s home in the Leucadia neighborhood of Encinitas.

Snodgrass underwent surgery and was listed in stable condition; Steinmeyer was treated and released. Kwik died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after a 10-hour standoff with a SWAT squad.

Kwik’s mother had received a temporary restraining order against him, citing emotional problems and volatility. She called deputies Wednesday after her son stormed into the house, officials said. After deputies attempted to subdue him with tear gas, he opened fire, setting off the SWAT action, authorities said.

Deputies entered the home shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday and found Kwik dead. A shotgun was found in the house.

Gore noted that four of his deputies had been shot in recent months. Two were wounded in September during a gun battle with a child-abuse suspect in Lakeside; both survived and underwent surgery.

“As a country, we have to start looking at this level of violence.  I don’t want to say that it’s only an attack on law enforcement, but the level of violence in our communities,” Gore said. “We have to do something to address our lack of mental health care in this country. The system has deteriorated in the last couple decades.”