Time to change the law? Man with history of mental illness accused of making terror threat with legally purchased gun

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SHEBOYGAN --  He's accused of buying an assault rifle and making a terrorist threat. The lawyer for 21-year-old Joshua Bagemehl says his client has suffered mental health issues nearly all of his life. But, when it came to him purchasing a weapon, everyone is in agreement; it was a legal gun purchase. Now, one local leader is calling for change.

Joshua Bagemehl

Joshua Bagemehl

"Really disturbing. A lot of reasons for the community to be disturbed," Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski said on the charges.

Authorities say they may have found pictures on Facebook just in time. In the photos, Bagemehl is seen holding guns, showing off his newly purchased AR-15 and hundreds of rounds of ammo.

Joshua Bagemehl

Joshua Bagemehl

joshua-bagemehl3

Prosecutors say most disturbing however, the words posted along with them.

In a post, Bagemehl is seen writing, "Someone needs to do a school shooting around here. It'd be funny as (expletive)."

joshua-bagemehl4

"He was very forthright and said that he watched violent videos, beheading videos included. He watched school shooting videos," says Urmanski.

Joel Urmanski

Joel Urmanski

The DA says Bagemehl told police watching violent videos never gets old. He even has a favorite school shooting; telling investigators Columbine is "the best." Someone who saw the Facebook posts online made an anonymous tip to police.

"He certainly had the ability to act on the threat that he posted," says Urmanski.

Bagemehl has been in trouble before. In December of 2014, prosecutors say he pushed his mother into a wall telling her she was "worthless and needed to be killed."

Joshua Bagemehl

Joshua Bagemehl

His mom informed police her son was "schizophrenic and bipolar." The case was eventually dropped.

It appears the relationship mended when this winter, police say she helped drive her son to the Gander Mountain in Sheboygan so he could buy an assault rifle.gander-mountain

Whether or not Bagemehl truly was a threat is now being debated in court.

"It screams someone who has a very black sense of humor, a very dark sense of humor," said Bagemehl's defense lawyer, George Limbeck.

Limbeck says his client may have some mental health issues but did not make a threat.

"A significant period of his life there have been documented mental health issues, yes -- I'll go that far," says Limbeck.

His family is not answering our questions.

Bagemehl's mental health issues may have been known to family, police and even prosecutors but when it came to buying weapons all agree, it was legal.gun

"There is nothing in the law as it is written now that was preventing him from having those guns," says Urmanski.

Bagemehl's arrest has caused the now retired Sheboygan District Attorney, Joe DeCecco, to call on gun organizations to see if people like Bagemehl can be stopped from making gun purchases.

Joe DeCecco

Joe DeCecco

DeCecco is urging gun groups to "support legislation banning anyone with a diagnosed mental health condition from ever possessing a firearm."

Lawmakers in Madison say the issue is complicated.

"It's a very difficult balance beam to walk because if you don't know that somebody is mentally ill and should not possess a gun because that is between their doctor and them, there is no way of finding out," says State Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc).

Joel Kleefisch

Joel Kleefisch

Kleefisch says allowing government to access personal medical information is a recipe for disaster.

"We don't want government to know your business with your doctor," says Kleefisch.

In Wisconsin, only judges have the power to take away someone's gun rights. Joshua Bagemehl has never been convicted of a felony or been sent to a mental health facility against his will.

"Right now the laws aren't working," says state democratic senator Chris Larson.

He believes lawmakers can find common ground whether it be on background checks or new laws to get people the help they need.

lawmakers

"If there is enough public pressure, we can do something. We can get something done," says Larson.

"I'm not the kind of lawmaker who is going to keep a closed eye on the potential there may be a better way to do something," adds Kleefisch.

It's an issue with no easy answers that many hope remains a priority those with the power to find solutions.

"Can we look at it now and say that is a terrifying thought? You bet.  But at this point there was nothing from his background that said he couldn't have them," says Urmanski.

Last week, Joshua Bagemehl was found competent to stand trial. He's due back in court next month.

9 comments

  • Gary Hamilton

    Mom sounds like a real genius. After he made that threat to her, she is driving him time Gander Mountain to purchase a gun!

  • polymorph

    He wouldn’t have got it if she didn’t drive him. There will never be enough laws to stop this unless you put a tat across someones forehead stating they are mentally ill. More laws will not stop all the murderers from attaining something to kill with. All you can do is police your own family. By the way that wasn’t a terrorist threat like the liberal media would have you believe, they don’t threat they just do it.

  • drewboyy

    Its a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line for “mental illness”? And WHO decides when youve crossed that line? Is being sad a mental illness? How bout shopping to much? Narcissism?

  • Al

    As a person living with Bi-Polar disorder and an avid hunter who has never broken a law or been a threat to anyone, myself included why should I have to give up my right because of the acts of one person. This strikes me as a complete overreaction on both sides. Trying to regulate through ones health status is ridiculous, where does it end do we take guns from terminal patients who “have nothing to lose” and could do anything. What about PTSD or any other mental health disorder. The majority of the shootings in this or any other country are carried out by people with no mental health disorder. It gets old when I hear people say that he must have not been right in the head whenever someone does something horrible. People do messed up this for a million reasons. Trying to regulate it this way will only further stigmatize mental health disorders further and make more people avoid seeking the help they need for fear of what can be taken away.

      • Chrisco

        He is over the age of 18. There is literal nothing the family can do. They can call the city, country or state. They can not do anything unless he is a threat or possible harm to himself and then you have to get the police involved. Brother has schizophrenia and my parents where in denial. When they finally opened their eyes, he was over the age of 18 and we could not do one thing. We tried the city. We tried the county. We tried the state and every single one said nothing could be done because he is over 18 and has not become a threat or harm to himself. It took a bottle of pills to get him help.

  • Sounds like the whole family is crazy

    He wouldn’t have the gun if he were listed with a history of mental illness and/or threats to the public. This hasn’t happened because of stup!d family members protecting him and law enforcement/mental health having no power to officially label this person. Guns don’t kill people…. stup!d people and nutcases kill people. Don’t affect the rights of law abiding people to carry guns to protect themselves. I don’t intend on cowering in a corner when mom drives this @ssh0le to Walmart for ammo and he shoots up the place.

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