SAVANNAH— A former soldier charged with taking hostages at gunpoint inside Winn Army Community Hospital suffers from severe post-traumatic stress and has no memory of the 2010 standoff, his defense attorney said Thursday.
The attorney for Robert Anthony Quinones, 31, tried unsuccessfully to persuade a U.S. Magistrate Court judge to throw out statements the suspected gunman made to investigators — including that he planned to kill President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton — on grounds that he was too mentally ill to waive his Miranda rights.
Prosecutors say Quinones was armed with an assault rifle and other firearms as he took three employees hostage at Winn on Sept. 6, 2010 and demanded mental treatment. He surrendered two hours later and no one was harmed.
Quinones later underwent a court-ordered mental evaluation. His attorney, Karl Zipperer, said in court Thursday that the former soldier had attempted suicide, been hospitalized and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he returned from a 15-month tour in Iraq in 2007. That diagnosis led to him being discharged from the Army.
“Mr. Quinones is reported to have no memory of the (hospital standoff) incident and only a slight memory of the interrogation” that followed, Zipperer told the judge.
Two federal agents who interviewed Quinones after the standoff both testified that signed a waiver of his right to remain silent and spoke in lucid detail about the weapons he owned, the medications he was taking for anxiety and depression and his struggles as he tried to get help from the Veterans Administration.
Judge G.R. Smith sided with prosecutors who argued Quinones showed no signs of being out of control or unable to understand what was happening.
“Even an insane person can give a voluntary statement,” said prosecutor Fred Kramer. “Severe depression and mental illness alone do not invalidate a Miranda waiver.”
The judge also denied a request to grant Quinones bond so that he could check into an inpatient VA hospital for treatment.
Smith said he’s still concerned about Quinones posing a danger unless he’s sent to a secured treatment center where he would be unable to leave — and the VA has no such facility in the region.
“I think the sooner he receives his treatment, the better it would be for him,” Smith said.
Aaron Green, an Army criminal investigator based at Fort Stewart, testified that he managed to talk to Quinones after some tense negotiating. He said Quinones agreed to trade four bags he had packed, which held his medication and several guns, for some Coca-Cola — but he insisted it be given to him in cans, apparently nervous that police might try to drug the soda.
During their talks Quinones held an assault rifle in the “low-ready” position soldiers are trained to use, with his finger outside the gun’s trigger guard, as he warned police to keep their distance, Greene said.
“He said if they came any closer he was going to have to take them out and get into a firefight,” Green said. “He talked about going out in a blaze of glory.”