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.