The Butler County man killed by a sheriff’s deputy Tuesday showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home from Afghanistan, according to his family.
Donna Faulkner called 911 at 5:23 p.m. Tuesday as her 32-year-old Marine veteran son, Jacob “Jake” Faulkner, shot at a train rolling by Jackson Road in St. Clair Twp.
Minutes later, as deputies surrounded their house in the 4100 block of Trenton Road, Faulkner came around the garage with a rifle and raised it at deputy Taylor Henson, who fired several shots, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
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Faulkner died at the scene, the first person to die in a Butler County sheriff’s-involved shooting since 2004, according to Journal-News archives.
“It is a tragic situation when life is lost,” Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said. “The preliminary investigation indicates this was a justified shooting.”
Henson, a six-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, is on paid administrative leave, per department policy.
Family cites PTSD
Family members said Faulkner, a New Miami High School graduate, served in the Marines in Afghanistan. He had been back in the United States for about six years.
“He seemed OK at first,” older brother Jason Faulkner told the Journal-News.
Faulkner had been taking classes at Xavier University and had a job at GE, according to his brother.
“Probably a couple years ago we noticed a change in his attitude,” Jason Faulkner said, adding that his brother quit taking classes and was fired from his job.
Soon, the man who had loved hiking, biking, being outdoors and gardening was detached, spending more time indoors, consumed by the presidential election, his family said.
Jason Faulkner said his brother “was really fired up over politics.”
But after the November election, “it seems like it moved from politics to something else,” Jason Faulkner said, adding that the whole family encouraged Faulkner to seek help and to talk with a counselor, but he refused.
“Nobody is guilty in this. It is PTSD,” Faulkner’s brother-in-law Kevin Gitner said. “It is a horrible disease. It takes a lot of our veterans.”
Faulkner, according to Gitner, committed suicide by cop.
The Butler County Coroner’s Office has not ruled on Faulkner’s death, saying it is pending investigation. An autopsy was conducted Wednesday, and gunshot wounds were listed as the cause of death.
“There are 20 veterans every day on average that commit suicide in the United States of America,” Gitner said. “This incident was no different.”
Gitner also asked for prayers for Henson.
“I know he is struggling with this. He is a young guy,” Gitner said of the deputy.
The investigation of the shooting will be presented to a grand jury for consideration, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.
It has been Gmoser’s policy since taking office that all officer-involved shootings in the county be reviewed by a grand jury.
Mom: ‘It is like he is at war’
During her call to 911, Faulkner’s mother said her son may suffer from PTSD.
“He has been going through a really rough time,” Donna Faulkner said in the call. “He doesn’t like the sound the train makes.”
When Donna Faulkner said her older son was going outside to try to talk to his brother, the dispatcher urged them to stay away for their own safety.
“I don’t want him to be killed … it is like he is at war,” Donna Faulkner said, adding that Faulkner was reloading his gun.
Dispatchers received a number of calls from concerned neighbors and frightened drivers who saw Faulkner shooting at the moving train at the Jackson Road railroad crossing.
Some callers also reported seeing Faulkner reloading his gun, saying he had two guns and was wearing a vest.
As sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they learned Faulkner had gone back into his house on Trenton Road.
They were surrounding the home when Faulkner came outside.
“He just walked outside,” Henson told dispatchers in recordings obtained by the Journal-News, adding that Faulkner was wearing a bandana around his eyes and was holding up his hands.
“Said go on ahead,” Henson said, “then walked back into the house.”
Seconds later the deputy said, “He’s got a gun. Shots fired.”
Shooting was planned, brother says
Jason Faulkner told the Journal-News he does not blame deputies for his brother’s death.
Faulkner planned the shooting, knowing police would show up when he started firing at the moving train, according to Jason Faulkner
Jason Faulkner said he heard deputies yell, “Drop the gun. Don’t make me shoot you.”
He said he tried to talk to his brother after he shot at the train cars and then again when he ran around to the backyard where their neighboring houses meet.
“I jumped up on the fence and I was screaming at him,” Jason Faulkner said. “He had the gun in his left hand, the rifle. I was screaming at him, put the gun down, you can still get help, it is not too late for you.”
“He kind of glanced at me real quick and he kept walking and he walked around the garage,” he said. “I heard three guns shots so I knew he was probably dead.”