ALFRED, Maine —Sometime soon — perhaps as early as Wednesday — a Shapleigh man charged with reckless conduct after allegedly shooting his AK-47 at his home Sunday will be transferred from York County Jail to a unit at Kennebec County Jail designed for veterans.
Former U.S. Army Ranger Robert Ferrera, 26, who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment, has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder since he was discharged in 2012, said his mother, Donna Ferrera, in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Ferrera surrendered peacefully Sunday afternoon about 90 minutes after sheriff’s deputies were called to the family compound on Oak Hill Road, off Route 11.
Ferrera lives in a home on family property on the private road, while other family members live close by in a separate residence. A family member fled the property when Ferrera, upset about a living situation, went “out of control” and started shooting the gun inside and outside his home, according to the York County Sheriff ’s Department. The family member then summoned the sheriff ’s office. No one was injured.
Charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and violating conditions of a prior release, Ferrera is being held without bail on the latter charge.
His mother said Ferrera was injured in 2012, and was discharged shortly before his four-year hitch was up. He had joined the Army as a teenager.
“He went into the Army right out of school, when he was 18,” his mother said. “He wanted to be a Ranger.”
Looking back, Donna Ferrera says her son should have been medically discharged from his Army service, which would have, she said, made him automatically eligible for health care outside the Veterans Administration system. But, she said, that didn’t happen.
She said her son has been diagnosed by the VA with PTSD, along with other medical issues that stem from his service – including back problems and an injured arm that was operated on while he was still in the military and now requires surgery again.
Donna Ferrera believes there should be a transition program for veterans as they approach discharge back into civilian life.
“We’ve been working on this since he got out,” she said of her son’s PTSD. “We’ve been all over the place, and its been hard.”
She said her son has “been through” VA medical systems in New England and Virginia.
“He’s never been right since he got home,” she said. “There’s never been a program that took control” of his issues.
Donna Ferrera said she was very close to getting her son into a civilian hospital before Sunday’s episode.
Now, he’s in jail – however, he’s also about to enter a program that could provide help.
York County Sheriff Bill King said he expects Robert Ferrera will be transferred from York County Jail to Kennebec County Jail, perhaps as soon as today, where there is a unit designed for veterans.
Called the Incarcerated Veterans Initiative, the program is designed to identify veterans who have service-related behavioral or medical conditions and assist in their rehabilitation, according to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office website.
Amy Marcotte, a licensed clinical social worker and team leader at The Vet Center in Springvale, said while everyone deployed to a war zone experiences readjustment when they come home, those who develop PTSD are in a minority. She said there is help available for those who have it, and for those with other issues.
“If you experience something that bothers you or is worrisome to you, there are many resources available,” she said. “All [a veteran] has to do is call and ask. … If someone called today and said they needed to see someone right away, we’d see them today; it is immediate.”
As well as The Vet Center, Marcotte said the VA’s Saco community-based outpatient clinic can often see veterans within a short span of time.
“We want these guys and gals to call us, get set and avoid a lot of pain,” Marcotte said.
The Vet Center may be reached at 490-1513.