'Deputy Hayner came to my rescue' - Veteran recalls PTSD incident and the help he received

Friday, May 23, 2014
Michael Benge, left, and Deputy Garin Hayner recall an incident last summer in which Hayner saved Benge's life.

BERRYVILLE -- Michael Benge, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, says he owes a debt of gratitude to Carroll County Sheriff's Deputy Garin Hayner.

On the evening of Aug. 26, 2013, Hayner was dispatched to Benge's residence in Berryville.

"I had a psychotic breakdown and I was trying to kill myself," Benge, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, said. "I thought I was back in conflict."

"Dispatch advised me that they received a call from the VA Hospital stating that [Benge] called in and stated that he was thinking of hurting himself and others," Hayner wrote in his report on the incident, adding that he was also told that Benge had a loaded gun.

When Hayner arrived on the scene, he ordered Benge to show him has hands and lie on his stomach, later determining that Benge was unarmed. Benge then became upset and started yelling at Hayner.

"I was out of control," Benge said.

"At this time, I lowered my shotgun and put the flashlight to my face, where Mr. Benge could see that it was me that he was dealing with," Hayner reported, adding that he told him to calm down and that he was "just here to get him help."

"He stood right there and stayed with me," Benge said.

As the EMTs were checking on Benge, his sister, Gayle Cummings, arrived.

"[She] and I were able to talk Mr. Benge into going to the ER in Berryville," Hayner reported.

However, as they were sitting in the ambulance, Benge became upset, trying to stop the EMTs from doing their job. He then exited the ambulance, followed by Hayner and Cummings.

"He was not in the realm of reality that we were in," Cummings said of her brother.

"He told me he would get into the ambulance and ride with me," Benge said of Hayner, who reported that this was the driving factor in getting Benge to the emergency room.

"I can usually talk him down, but the only thing that was real to him that night was Deputy Hayner," Cummings said.

Hayner reported that Benge became upset again after they arrived at the hospital and he had to talk him into staying again.

"I sat with Mr. Benge while the doctor gave him a shot to keep him calm," Hayner reported, adding that it worked and he waited about 30 minutes to make sure Benge was calm.

"Deputy Hayner came to my rescue," Benge added, saying he was later transferred to the psychiatric unit at the VA Hospital in Little Rock.

"The reward for me is you doing all right," Hayner told Benge earlier this week.

Benge was not arrested or charged with anything as a result of this incident.

"Jails are not for people who have mental diseases," Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek said.

Grudek said that between this incident and others such as the arrest of Jimmy Harris last fall, his department is becoming better-equipped to deal with those who suffer from mental illness, whether they're veterans or not.

"It's one of those things you learn by experience," Grudek said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a crisis line that provides confidential support for veterans and their loved ones 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is 1-800-273-8255. The department also offers chat support online at VeteransCrisisLine.net or via text message to the number 838255.

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