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Dearborn — A recent high-speed chase through Dearborn, in which a man fired an AR-15 rifle from a moving car before killing himself, could have been avoided if someone had alerted authorities to the man's distress, the city's police chief said Thursday.

"I believe someone knew there was a crisis going on in his life," Dearborn police Chief Ronald Haddad said of Ruben Salinas, who on May 9 led police on a four-mile chase through Dearborn as he fired his rifle at his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend before pulling into an Oakwood Hospital parking lot and fatally shooting himself.

"If someone had have told police this guy was going through a crisis, maybe something could have been done to prevent this," Haddad said.

Haddad held a press conference at Dearborn police headquarters Thursday in which he displayed 200 firearms his officers confiscated over the past six months. He also highlighted his intervention program he believes would help curb mass shootings, and stressed his desire for "common sense" gun legislation.

"I support the Second Amendment, but I don't see why anyone would need to carry one of these guns loaded in their car," Haddad said, holding up the AR-15 used by Salinas, who was also armed with .45- and .40-caliber pistols. 

"This is a weapon of mass destruction," Haddad said of the AR-15. He then held up a pair of confiscated brass knuckles. "While the AR-15 is legal to carry, brass knuckles are not. How ironic is that?"

Haddad said his officers confiscate between 300 and 400 guns per year. "Also, on average we get calls once a week from people who left their guns in their cars, left their cars unlocked, and someone stole them," he said. "Now, that's another gun on the street."

Haddad said he'd like to see laws preventing people from carrying loaded "military-style assault rifles" inside cars. "As a nation, we'd send a responsible message," he said.

Gun rights advocate and firearm instructor Rick Ector said Haddad was mistaken.

"It's already against the law to carry a loaded rifle in your car," he said. "Also, an AR-15 is not a military-style firearm. Those are automatic, where there are several rounds fired per trigger pull. AR-15s are modern sporting rifles: One trigger pull, one discharge.

"To the layman, they appear to look like a fancy military device, but they simply are not so," Ector said.

Haddad said he would like to see more gun-free zones. "If I have to send officers in to get a gunman, I want them to only worry about one gunman," he said.

Ector countered that gun-free zones are dangerous. "If you don’t have lawfully-armed people in gun-free zones, it’s a honeypot for bad guys to slaughter innocent people without any resistance," he said.

During his press conference, Haddad also touted his plan to quell gun violence, "Law Enforcement and Mental Health Intervention Model," which he recently presented to the FBI. other law enforcement officials, mental health officials and educators.

"There remains a significant gap in law enforcement's ability to intervene before an incident occurs," the plan outline said.

The gist of the plan is for law enforcement to focus on recognizing mental health problems early, and getting people who are experiencing problems into treatment, whether a crime was committed or not.

One component of the plan involves police officers asking troubled people or their families to surrender any firearms in the home for a short time.

"If subject refuses to surrender weapons for safekeeping, then it shall be documented in the police report," the outline says. 

Haddad said community involvement is crucial for the plan to work.

"We want loved ones to call us if they think there may be a problem, even if no criminality is involved, so we could then assess them, and, if appropriate, get that person the proper resources," he said.

Haddad said his officers have employed seven such interventions, including a recent incident in which a youth threatened to shoot up a Dearborn school.

"The parents gave us a pistol that was in the house, and we got (the boy making the threat) in touch with social workers," he said. "This is a holistic approach, which also involves schools and the faith-based community."

Dearborn police equip officers with "special needs 911 registry forms" which are given to families undergoing stresses that could lead to violence, which asks people to list information such as things that might arouse anger in the subject. 

Joshua Buckholtz, director of the Systems Neuroscience Psychopathology Lab at Harvard University, who read Haddad's plan, wrote in a review: "If and when the tide of community violence does begin to roll back, it will be because of thoughtful, sane, common-sense approaches like this one."

ghunter@detroitnews.com

 

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