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Jan 17, 2013 12:26 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Suicidal man shot by police was veteran with PTSD

TUCSON - A suicidal man shot by police was a veteran receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to his parents.

Dustin Wernli, 30, called 911 Tuesday night saying he wanted an officer to shoot him, according to the Tucson Police Department.

Officers talked to Wernli for about 15 minutes when he pulled a gun and an officer lethally shot him, according to TPD.

Wernli was a Navy medic who was deployed with the Marine Corps in Iraq, according to his father.

He suffered a brain injury from an explosion in 2004. He was receiving treatment from the VA hospital for PTSD, according to Wernli's father.

A veteran commits suicide every 20 minutes, according to Dan Ranieri with La Frontera Arizona.

La Frontera's mission is to solve community problems, including providing mental health services to veterans.

Ranieri has been treating veterans for years and says they struggle to adjust to civilian life.

"They're having a hard time finding homes," Ranieri said. "They're having a hard time finding jobs. They're having a hard time staying in jobs once they find them. They're having a difficult time with their relationships."

The military set a new record in 2012, with a veteran committing suicide about once a day, according to Ranieri.

"Most people either don't know where to find the help," he said, "or they think that the problems are so severe and they're so unsolvable that death is preferable, and that's the tragedy of all this."

There are sometimes so many places for assistance that it is overwhelming, according to Ranieri.

"There are so many places to go that it gets pretty confusing," he said, "and just the shear confusion of it all, it may force somebody to inaction."

Ranieri said veterans should not wait until they have suicidal thoughts before looking for help.

"If you're struggling and you need a helping hand," he said, "that's the best time. Obviously, the earlier in the process the better."

La Frontera just launched an initiative called Rally Point Arizona. In the past month, they set up a 24-hour hotline. Veterans answer the phones. Their number is 1-855-725-5948.

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