Timothy Courtois’ family had been worried about him for weeks. They repeatedly told police in Biddeford, Maine, that the 49-year-old was off his meds for bipolar disorder. And police were also told he had guns. But still, because he wasn’t doing anything that rose to the legal definition of imminent threat, police said their hands were tied.
“We’re very limited — very, very limited to what we can do,” says Biddeford Police Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk. “Just because somebody has a hunch, we will investigate it. But everybody has rights, and you have the right to bear arms in this country.”
Fortunately, Courtois was caught speeding toward New Hampshire. He told police that he was going there to kill a former boss.
Federal law bars gun sales to the mentally ill only if they’ve ever been deemed by a judge to be mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed. That may have been the case with Courtois, but states’ reporting of such things to the federal database is spotty, and very often, it doesn’t show up when a gun seller does a background check.
Other reports indicate that Courtois had attended The Dark Knight Rises, while carrying a loaded gun. When police searched his car and house, and found clippings about the Aurora, Colorado shooting, as well as “an AK-47, four handguns, and several boxes of ammunition.” in his vehicle, and “a banned fully automatic Russian assault rifle plus…. 8,000 to 10,000 rounds of ammunition at his residence.”