COUSHATTA, LA (KSLA) - As the country honored our service members on Veterans Day on Saturday, some local citizens put a spotlight on post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses faced by many returning war veterans, including a vet they knew and loved.
Dozens of friends and family marched this weekend from Zion Chapel Baptist Church, just south of Coushatta, to a house half a mile away, where an allegedly armed war veteran, 29-year-old Preston Thornton, had been shot and later died during a conflict with deputies.
But this march was about Thornton, as his sister Sydneye explained to us before the march got underway.
"It helps the family get together, show respect for him, in honor of him," she said.
Those close to Thornton cannot escape the irony that an Army veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, called a VA crisis line for help, yet wound up shot and killed by the very deputies sent there to pick him up — one of whom was also shot but survived.
A bus then drove the marchers to the Red River Parish Courthouse, where they planned to deliver a letter to the Coushatta mayor and police chief. It spelled out the need for more crisis intervention training to give officers the tools and skills needed to help de-escalate a situation.
"I'm of the perception that with increased training, it will improve over time," said Blaine Campbell, Thornton's best friend in the Army.
But after waiting for the chief and mayor for an hour, marchers finally decided to read their letter aloud on the courthouse steps before calling it a day.
Thornton's family told us they've been given no timetable yet on when to expect results of the Louisiana State Police investigation into the August shooting.
The family also said they have made no decision yet on whether to take legal action in the case.