Teen shot by police had a troubled past

8:03 PM, Jan 15, 2014   |    comments
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WYOMING, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Grand Rapids Police lieutenant told WZZM 13 Wednesday he would be surprised if the 19-year-old shot by an officer Tuesday will face any charges. The shooting happened after James Spivey pointed an air-powered gun at officers.

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Kevin Dykstra, Spivey's stepfather says his legal troubles began at age 9 when Spivey damaged his neighbor's swimming pool cover. The boy was later sent to foster care, got into more legal trouble, was suspended from school, and received mental health treatment.

Dykstra can't stop playing the 'would-have/should-have' game. Spivey stopped by the house Tuesday to bring his stepbrother medicine before later threatening police with a gun.

"He wasn't happy when I saw him yesterday," said Dykstra. "He was almost in tears. I wish I would have said, 'Stay here instead of wait until I get home.'"

A few hours later at a different home, Spivey would call a local mental health agency, Family Outreach Center, saying "(I) can't take it anymore," and "don't send anyone because everyone will (expletive) die," according to Grand Rapids Police.

When police arrived, he threatened them with what looked like a semi-automatic handgun. It turned out to be a BB gun. "This doesn't sound even capable of him, to me it doesn't," said Dykstra.

An officer shot Spivey.

When asked if he knew Spivey had mental issues, Dykstra said, "He was always cutting his wrists, I think for attention, for a friend." Dykstra says Spivey got himself fired from a grocery store two weeks ago, he says the latest road bump in a decade-long troubled past.

Dykstra believes there's reasons for Spivey's actions that he can't speak to on the record. He will say Spivey lost his father when he was younger. "He took a lot of burden onto himself," he said.

But in the two or so times a week Dykstra sees him, he never knows if Spivey will be happy or sad. "Do you ever try to talk to him?" I try to," he said.

But he says the family doesn't address the cutting. "I think everyone leaves him be, not to embarrass him," he said.
The Family Outreach Center - which can't speak to Spivey's situation due to privacy - advises parents: address cutting.

"They may not be intending to kill themselves by cutting, and yet at the same time it's something to be concerned about because those who do cut, it can lead to that," said Children Division Program Manager Chris Postema.

Postema says cutting is more often seen in girls. "In males, we may see cutting still, but tend to see more aggressive behaviors," he said.

He says gun use is the most rare form of suicide attempt among teens, he says most times, they're just trying to communicate a message. He tells parents to at least have a consolation, to rule anything out. He says you won't regret it.

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