On May 8, 2006, Detective Vicki Armel, 40, and Police Officer Michael Garbino, 53, were slain outside the Sully District Police Station in Chantilly, Virginia. The gunman, who also perished when officers returned fire, was Michael Kennedy; he fired more than seventy rounds from a wooded area near the station's parking lot. As details about Michael Kennedy emerged, residents here learned that Kennedy was mentally ill and that his parents had been attempting to get help for their son. On May 12, 2006, the Washington Times printed this article, a portion of which is excerpted below:
"Local police and mental health officials said yesterday that they had no authority to return to a Rockville psychiatric facility last month an 18-year-old escapee who earlier this week ambushed Fairfax County police officers in Chantilly.For a few weeks following the officers' and Kennedy's deaths, various people weighed in as to what might have been done to prevent the terrible events of May 8. But after a short time, as do many news stories of this kind, the story faded.
"'In the state of Virginia, if someone voluntarily checks themselves into a mental health facility and leaves, they are able to leave, [unless] there is a detention order,' said Officer Beth Underhill, a spokeswoman for Fairfax County police. 'If you leave, police cannot pick you up.'...
"Michael William Kennedy, 18, of Centreville, was voluntarily admitted to Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health Center in Rockville at about 1 p.m. April 18. Center officials said that the door to his room had no lock, but that he was staying in a unit block that was secured.
"About seven hours after he had checked in, Kennedy broke a window [and] left the facility....
"Kennedy's friends and neighbors have said he had exhibited bizarre behavior, such as calling himself Jesus Christ and talking about invasions by zombies. Documents seized from Kennedy's home after the Monday afternoon ambush show that he had received treatment for mental health issues...."
This past week, The Texas Roadhouse, quite near the police station, made the front page of the local-news section of the September 12, 2006 Washington Post in an article entitled "It's Enough to Make Your Stomach Turn":
"Two Fairfax County officers lay mortally wounded in the parking lot of their Sully District police station. At the height of the crisis, anxious police cordoned off streets, closing down some businesses. The Texas Roadhouse restaurant just down the road had to shut its doors for a few hours that day in May and again on the next two Saturdays, when large crowds came out to honor the funeral processions for Detective Vicki Armel and Officer Michael Garbarino.Wait. There's more:
"So what did the restaurant do in the police department's time of loss? Offer to cater the funerals? Set up a food donation schedule for the bereaved families? Nah. The Texas Roadhouse in Chantilly counted up the pennies it had lost -- a total of about $9,000, the manager computed -- and turned to the police department with a formal request for compensation."
"...[Restaurant manager Eric] Rainwater asked the police to dismiss $5,000 in fines that the restaurant had accumulated because its alarm system had repeatedly malfunctioned, summoning police for no reason...."
Columnist Marc Fisher, the author of the above-cited article, writes,
"The dictionary provides various definitions for 'chutzpah,' such as effrontery, unbelievable gall and utter nerve. None of these words comes close to describing what happened here."The chief executive of Texas Roadhouse, the son a retired Virginia police officer, has apologized to the police department and has disciplined the manager of the local restaurant. The requests for compensation and for dropping fines have been withdrawn. But the restaurant's reputation here may well be permanently tarnished.
Columnist Marc Fisher concludes with a biting, final paragraph, a portion of which is excerpted below:
"[The manager of Texas Roadhouse exhibited] a blindness to others that we see all too often these days, even in businesses that rise or fall on customer satisfaction....[T]hink about the people you know and how they respond when they think they have been cheated -- think of the nasty e-mails they dash off, the angry calls, the righteous demands for compensation. Is what happened here really so inconceivable, so far from the kind of behavior we've come to accept in our daily lives?"I didn't personally know Detective Armel and Officer Garbino. But on two Saturday mornings in a row, I passed by McLean Bible Church, which hosted services for both of the fallen officers. The attendance was enormous! Yes, traffic was congested that day, with attendees from all over the state and with rubberneckers amazed and moved by the sight of police motorcycles lined up on the knoll outside the church and officers standing at attention as they paid a final tribute to their own.
Apparently, the manager of Texas Roadhouse was moved by the loss of a few thousand dollars. In my view, his selfishness symbolizes part of what's wrong with our society today. The Me-First Generation is in charge!
Armel and Garabino Trust Fund