A man arrested this week in Council Bluffs has been charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after police who used pepper spray and a taser say they had no effect. They had to tackle the man, who was standing naked in the snow on Monday night, as temperatures neared zero.
Council Bluffs Police Chief Keith Mehlin says 35-year-old Carlo Pattee of Omaha may also be the man who stole a police squad car on Saturday after an officer gave him a ride to Omaha. He’s claimed to be the culprit, and despite what may be some mental-health and substance-abuse issues, they’re working with Omaha police and think he may be the man who stole the car.
Chief Mehlin says the case began with the man acting strangely. Somebody had spotted the man walking on the Interstate-480 bridge that links Council Bluffs. An officer checking it out noted it was cold and snowing, and decided to give the man a ride in the direction he was going — which was Omaha. When he stopped, the man jumped into the front seat and took off with the squad car. It was recovered undamaged in Omaha on Sunday.
Mehlin says while officers frequently find themselves in strange situations, it’s not always easy to tell when an individual is not acting rationally. Noting that Pattee has not yet been evaluated, the chief says they often come across people who have mental-health and substance-abuse issues. "One often causes the other and vice versa." He says people having mental health issues often wind up becoming cases for the law-enforcement system to handle.
Chief Mehlin says his officers have gotten good at recognizing people problems right away: "I guess practice makes perfect," he says. Still, even if they recognize a case of unusual behavior as possible mental illness, they’re limited in the resources available to handle such a case, as the agencies may be limited in how much help they can provide. "It is a problem," says the chief, "but we do the best we can." They’re waiting for now to see if Omaha prosecutors will also file charges against the man.