Family of Iowa Man Shot by Police Say Mental Health, Not Cop is to Blame

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URBANDALE, Iowa — On the outside looking in, Scott Heisler, a Marine, football player and marathon athlete, was a picture of strength.

“He did one Ironman a couple years ago and many marathons and half-marathons and triathlons,” said his sister Kelly Trently of Urbandale. However, Scott’s family says inside his mental health was crumbling. “The counselor later told his ex-wife ‘I do believe Scott suffers from bipolar disorder,'” said Kelly.

Within the last year, Kelly says alcohol use and mood swings would get worse for Scott. “He would just go from zero to ten and he was concerned for himself,” she said.

Her brother’s final cry for help may have come on Sept. 18, when law enforcement from West Des Moines and Clive notified Scott of his arrest for violating a no-contact order from his ex-wife for a second time in September. “He was just being obsessive about her dating someone,” Kelly said.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Scott went inside his West Des Moines home, grabbed what looked like a handgun, and threatened the officers who shot and killed him after de-escalation attempts were unsuccessful. Kelly said, “It’s just a pellet gun. It looks like a handgun. No one would ever know.” Kelly believes this was no accident on Scott’s end. “It was a justified shooting and Scott wanted to die. It’s so unfair that he did it that way,” said Kelly.

Family members tried to get him help with his mental health in the past. Scott’s niece Claire Forret said, “There shouldn’t be a stigma around mental health like I feel like there is.” Kelly added, “He was very good at trying to control situations and convince people he was fine.”

He was scheduled for more help through the VA Central Iowa Health Care System. “In October, he was going to do a traumatic brain injury study because they were concerned and we were concerned,” said Kelly.

The family says Scott first attempted suicide earlier this month by slitting his wrists over Labor Day weekend. He ended up at an Urbandale park down the street from his sister Kelly’s home. Officers calmed him down enough to take him to the hospital for treatment. “He went to three A.A. meetings in the East Village right away when he got out. He went to one on his own,” Kelly said.

From the battlefield to the playing field, Scott’s visible enemies were always conquered. But mental health was one he hadn’t been trained or coached to attack. “The manly thing is to get help. Get help,” said Kelly. “It is braver to do than to not,” added Claire.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Anyone needing help should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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