Family says the Omaha Target shooting suspect has struggled with mental health issues for years

Omaha, Neb. (WOWT) — The uncle of the 32-year-old man who brought a loaded AR-15 to a West Omaha Target store Tuesday told 6 News that the man has struggled with mental health for years, and his family has tried to help him.

“He was a good kid, and he was a good kid,” Larry Dirksen Jr. said in an interview with 6 News at the house where he lived with his nephew, Joseph Joy Jones.

Jones was killed on Tuesday after firing several shots into the target.

“In no way, shape, or form do I think he ever had any intention of going into that store and hurting anyone.”

The community knows about Jones’ actions, but what they don’t know is his long history of mental health problems.

Dirksen says Jones was a paranoid schizophrenic.

“It started about 3 years ago. “He came to believe that the cartel was behind it,” Dirksen says.

On and off, Jones would pack up and drive to other states, eventually returning when he ran out of money. Dirksen says he had frequent episodes, and bought guns or came home several times.

“The basic rules were if you stayed here you couldn’t get a firearm,” Dirksen says. “You have to do the right things, the drugs, the alcohol, see the doctor, get the medicine. He’s been trying to do that for a while but the sounds just don’t stop.”

His family did what they could to help. In one incident, Dirksen says Jones asked for his gun back, and Dirksen called the police.

“Hi, my nephew has schizophrenia, and he’s asking for his firearm. I won’t give it back to him,” I said. [but] They came here and by law, were actually required to return him to his firearm.”

After that, Jones left and was in and out of hospitals and facilities.

Several months ago, he drove to Kansas where he was arrested after lying on the highway. Dirksen says Jones thought the gang would kill his family if he didn’t commit suicide. He was then placed in another mental health facility.

“Over and over, you know me and him would try to plead with them, ‘Hey, he needs some help,’ and all they could really do was put him in the hospital for three days, hold him for three days, give him medicine,” he says. “But when you’re in severe mental health distress and have a diagnosis like his, it just wasn’t enough for him to be articulate enough to make rational decisions.”

Two weeks before entering Target, Dirksen says Jones quit his job — which he loved — and reported to the FBI that he was facing some type of harassment.

Last week, the FBI showed up at their double desk to speak with Jones.

“Here you have this long history of this 32-year-old man who has a history of schizophrenia and there’s no help for him, no health insurance, nothing you need to get medication for, no one to force him to do it or recover, and then we get to what happened.” On that day, which is to be expected.”

Dirksen says he was out of town when he bought a Jones AR-15 four days before showing up at Target.

“We weren’t aware he was carrying a firearm, if we had we would have tried to take it from him or call law enforcement, but even then, how can you buy a firearm after being hospitalized over and over again for being a paranoid schizophrenic?”

American systems are broken, Dirksen says, but they also don’t excuse Jones’ behavior.

In a message to the community, Dirksen hopes people will understand what Jones and their families have been through.

“We are hurt as a family by the pain for everyone who was at the target, we are hurt by the law enforcement officer who had to make that decision. We apologize for what happened. We are sorry for what happened and we believe the officer did what he should have done.” I pray for the affected families. I hope you all understand that there is a bigger problem, there is a problem with mental health. It’s not a gun problem, in my opinion, it’s a mental health problem. Until we address this issue, we will continue to see things like this happen.”

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