Stress disorder may be factor in Oklahoma druggist’s acts, expert says

RON JACKSON Modified: June 11, 2009 at 11:45 am •  Published: June 6, 2009
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Dr. Frank Ochberg has watched the story around pharmacist Jerome Ersland unfold with great interest, given Ochberg’s expertise on post traumatic stress disorder and Ersland’s status as a military veteran.

The Michigan psychiatrist said he has watched with dismay the heated, public response that paints Ersland as either a vigilante hero or cold-blooded murderer. Opinions have flooded radio talk shows, newspapers and Web sites nationwide.

"If you have a strong opinion about what happened and the facts aren’t all in, what does that say about the people giving the opinion?” Ochberg said during a telephone interview. "What is a trial for?”

Ochberg instead promotes caution and objectivity. He hopes the public — and media — will use this time to "elevate the conversation” about the tragic events of May 19 when Ersland shot and killed Antwun "Speedy” Parker, 16, during an armed robbery at Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater charged Ersland with first-degree murder for allegedly crossing the line in his own self-defense. The prosecutor claims Ersland stood over an unarmed, already unconscious Parker and delivered the lethal blow by firing five more times into the teen’s abdomen.

Ersland claims he feared for his life despite having knocked Parker to the drugstore floor with a shot to the head.

Back in the war
Ochberg thinks there might be yet another explanation for Ersland’s actions. The answer might rest in the place left to explore — Ersland’s mind.

"If a person suffers from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from a military situation, they might not always see it coming,” said Ochberg, who has helped research and define the disorder. "But I’ve talked to many veterans and have testified to this before in many, many trials.


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Callers are threatening death,

Pharmacist in murder case says

CHICKASHA — A pharmacist said he has received telephone death threats at his home here since he killed a robber May 19. Jerome Jay Ersland, 57, is charged with first-degree murder.

In an interview Wednesday, he said a woman told him "I’m going to get what I have coming to me.” He said he was told in one call he would be dead before sundown.

Friday, he said he has gotten at least four telephone death threats — the latest Wednesday night. He said his home phone number is unlisted.

Two robbers burst into the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in Oklahoma City on May 19. Ersland shot one and chased the other away, according to a surveillance video. Prosecutors allege he went too far when he came back into the drugstore and shot the wounded robber five more times.

NOLAN CLAY, STAFF WRITER

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