HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - WHNT News 19 is Taking Action on the behalf of a prisoner in the Madison County Jail. Ron Buis served his country with honor but now he's serving time. We agreed to do his story because of the reason he's behind bars.
Buis is charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling. It's a felony, and he's being held without bond. It's not that Buis was outside shooting into someone else's house. He was in his mobile home and the bullets traveled into the mobile homes near his. It happened on more than one occasion, too.
His friends tell us Ron wasn't trying to hurt anyone. They say he was shooting at the voices in his head.
In 1967, Ron Buis was only 17 years old when he enlisted in the Marines. As a member of Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marines, he saw plenty of combat in Vietnam, plenty of things he would seldom discuss.
"It's frustrating. You feel really helpless, you know, somebody you love, and they're suffering," said longtime friend Kay Sewell.
Sewell knew Buis as a teenager and the two of them reconnected not long before his arrest. She didn't know he had been to war.
"And he just bowed his head and said 'I was 19 years old baby, it was hell. I didn't talk about it,'" Sewell said.
Ron Buis came home from Vietnam with a Purple Heart, a Vietnamese Citation for Gallantry with Bronze and Silver stars, and a Gold Star from the Marines in lieu of a second Purple Heart. He also brought with him the haunting memories of a horrible experience that would later manifest themselves as psychotic depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. From the records we could obtain, Buis was being treated for these issues a decade ago.
"And he would talk to the voices and acknowledge the voices, and he would sit with a laser light. He'd shine it on the wall and like, 'do you see em, do you see em? I'm shining it right in their eyes and they don't like that,'" said Samantha Terrien, a longtime friend who emailed WHNT News 19 to make us aware of his situation.
His condition began to get worse, and his friends began to notice the change.
"And then he started becoming more of a recluse and wouldn't come out of the house. We stopped seeing him at choir practice and that's when we really knew. And of course when you drive by and you see bullet holes in someone's house, you know there's a problem," Terrien said.
There are dozens of bullet holes and shotgun blasts in his trailer. Several of the bullets hit his pickup truck and some lodged in the trailers next to his, which is why he's in jail. His friends tell us he simply could not get the help he needed.
"I would ask him about it, you know, when was the last time you went to the doctor, when do you go back? He would tell about what a runaround he was getting and that he would drive down to Birmingham for his appointment and it would be rescheduled or canceled or put off and that he drove himself to the one in Murfreesboro," said Terrien. "You know, he didn't have an appointment for that, he went trying to get help. He knew something was wrong, and they turned him away as well."
In June of last year, some eight months ago, Madison County Circuit Court Judge William Bell ordered the state to conduct a mental evaluation of Buis. But that never happened. When we contacted the Alabama Department of Mental Health to find out why, they told us they never received the order.
Madison County has a contract with a company in Peoria, Illinois to provide mental health services for inmates. WHNT News 19 contacted Advanced Correctional Healthcare to ask if they had provided any care for Buis. The reply from their attorney simply said, "It is our policy not to discuss the details of specific patient care or the details of threatened litigation outside of the courtroom."
Buis and his attorney say he has received no care or treatment since he was arrested some 18 months ago.
"What we have is the VA that's releasing these people out here in society that need help. And the overall society is at risk in addition to these men are at risk. And there's no reason for that," says Buis' attorney, John C. Taylor of Huntsville.
"He said I've got to go. Everytime I leave home they tear up stuff. And she said who, because she was unaware. He said the fairies. When I leave home they get angry and they tear up things," Sewell said.
WHNT News 19 is already Getting Results for Mr. Buis. As a result of us getting the judge's order to the Alabama Department of Mental Health, they are Taking Action finally and are going to do what the court ordered them to do some eight months ago. We've also talked with the folks at the VA and although there's no consensus regarding the canceled or rescheduled appointments, they have given us their word they will do his reassessment the day he is released from jail. And his attorney tells us he's now working to get the case moved to Veterans Court and before Judge Ruth Ann Hall here in Madison County. We've met with Judge Hall and believe this is one of the best thing that could happen.
Ron Buis has been in jail for a year and a half. He is a decorated combat war veteran, you don't just throw these men away.
Mr. Buis, we make you this promise, sir, we will not rest until you get the help you need. And we promise you we'll keep you apprised of any developments.