Standoff ends with questions surrounding mental illness

A Victoria man thought to be suicidal Geisler was misjudged by police, ignored by a social worker and stripped of his rights by mental health worker, he says

Vince Geisler

Vince Geisler

As Vince Geisler worked in his basement welding shop, earplugs in, he was oblivious to the team of Victoria police officers outside his home with guns pointed at the front door.

An hour earlier, the 41-year-old was laid off from his job as a network engineer at Navigata Communications. The news came as a surprise and Geisler was “admittedly pissed off,” but nowhere near how the human-resource employee interpreted his reaction.

Once at home, Geisler turned his focus to the motorcycle grips he’d been welding for a friend.

The HR woman called Victoria police to report Geisler might be suicidal. Police officers sped off to Geisler’s home on Edgeware Road.

Over the following eight hours, Geisler was misjudged by police, ignored by a social worker and stripped of his rights by mental health workers, he said.

He was admitted against his will to Royal Jubilee Hospital, drugged and mistreated, he said, all over what he calls a gross misunderstanding that started with the phone call from the human resources office on Jan. 17.

Geisler didn’t notice when police officers knocked on his front door. He didn’t hear when they called. He didn’t see the emergency response team’s van pull up outside, and the officers didn’t check the side door of his house, where they would have seen him bent over his welding desk.

At noon, Geisler got hungry. He stepped outside and was met with guns and shouting.

“I stood outside the door and I’ve got guns pointed at me and people screaming at me to put my hands. I don’t even remember all the instructions,” Geisler said.

Why the guns? Police databank searches revealed Geisler is a firearms owner. VicPD’s understanding of Geisler’s failure to respond to their calls and come out was that he was barricaded inside.

Geisler came face-to-face with the team of officers and was detained under the Mental Health Act, under suspicion of being a risk to himself.

“It’s a case of false arrest and failure to provide my rights under the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms),” Geisler said.

Geisler was driven to the Royal Jubilee Hospital’s psychiatric ward.

Under the act, a person can be involuntarily admitted to hospital and held for up to 48 hours for examination. A doctor or the hospital’s director is only required to explain the situation if they believe the patient is able to understand.

“I still have no idea what’s going on, they still wouldn’t allow me to have a lawyer” Geisler said.

Over the next several hours, Geisler spoke with a social worker and a psychiatrist, who both asked whether he wanted to hurt himself. He said he didn’t.

By about 5 p.m., he was moved into a hospital room and told to change into a gown. A team of “a dozen officers,” the psychiatrist and a few nurses entered, handing Geisler a cup with pill-form medication inside.

“Just take it,” he was told. He said it took several questions before a nurse explained the drugs would calm his nerves.

“I thought, ‘I can go with that, I am stressed out a little,’” Geisler said.

The next thing Geisler remembered is waking up in a hospital room, at 9 a.m. the next day.

Meanwhile, Geisler’s wife, Carol, tried repeatedly calling her husband’s cellphone while police officers executed a search warrant on their home, where their two children, Trinity, 4, and Eli, 2, also live.

Officers took several guns, a crossbow and ammunition from the house, which the family said were all registered and properly stored in a safe.

Talking to police, Carol learned her husband was in hospital, but was told by hospital staff he wasn’t allowed visitors.

The following morning, about an hour after Geisler woke, still feeling disoriented, he called Carol.

“They just decided at some point I was no longer a hazard to myself and (I could) go.”

Since the experience, the Geislers filed freedom of information requests to learn more about his admittance to hospital and hired Geisler’s father as their lawyer for lawsuits they plan to launch.

“I was treated like a piece of meat, I was treated like an animal,” Geisler said. “They have no grounds to say I’m a hazard to myself. I’m so perturbed by this I’m looking at moving (to the U.S.).”

He and Carol said it’s strange that people who truly need police and mental health services are sometimes turned away when someone like Geisler, who said he does not suffer from mental illness, was the subject of so many resources.

ecardone@vicnews.com