It was with sadness that I read the headline "Man With Gun Killed in Court; Marshal Hurt" (Metro, March 10).
I am a physician and the medical director of an in-patient psychiatric facility in San Diego County. This article dramatized, I think, the need for a more stringent curtailment of mentally ill people in our society. The individual slain was obviously mentally disturbed. He was described by Times staff writers as wearing a bulletproof vest and a crash helmet when being pursued at high speeds several months ago because "the mafia is after me." There is no mention in the article about any psychiatric intervention.
Furthermore, the article mentioned that when his home was searched for additional weapons and bombs, it was discovered that his guns had recently been sold to pay for attorneys' fees.
Our legal system has, under the guise of freedom, allowed many disturbed people to go untreated. The ability to hold someone for treatment against his will in California applies only to severe cases and then usually for only very brief periods of time. Unfortunately, even if this individual who was slain was brought in for psychiatric evaluation and treatment, he probably would have been released by our court system.
Until our society is once again willing to restrict individual rights for the good of that individual and for society at large, we are doomed to see events like this occur on a more frequent basis.
PAUL G. ALBERTON, M.D.