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Mother of police shooting suspect praying for officer, pleads for mental health reform

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BATON ROUGE - The mother of the man arrested for allegedly shooting at a Baton Rouge police officer says she has tried for years to get help for her son's mental health issues.

Stephanie Hardnett said she was in a car when she encountered her son last night and he opened fire on her. When a BRPD Officer arrived, investigators said Eugene Thomas opened fire at the police officer too.

"We followed him and he got out and started shooting," Hardnett said.

Tonight Hardnett is sounding the alarm about the lack of resources for people with mental health issues.

"He's been in and out of facilities, six, eight months ago," Hardnett said. "It's getting shorter and shorter, 21 days. That's not long enough."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found Thomas' disturbing criminal history shows his mental health allowed him to skate on serious charges in the past.

2001 Obscenity charge- Not guilty by reason of insanity

2002 Second-Degree Murder charge- Not guilty by reason of insanity

2009 Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon- Judge ruled he had no convictions

The Investigative Unit found Thomas returned to court for periodic visits for mental health updates until his probation was lifted in October of 2017. The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner says Thomas was committed seven times since 2016 for various reasons.

"He's paranoid," Thomas said. "We were trying to give him some keys, and he wouldn't accept them out of his right hand. He didn't trust the right hand, only the left hand."

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said the chances of this happening again are possible.

"If I'm him or his lawyer, I'm surely going to contest his sanity at the time of this event," Moore said. "Obviously he has been successful twice before, been incarcerated, let out because he has been restored."

District Attorney Hillar Moore said this case is deeply troubling.

"He will surely be evaluated again and we have to take it step by step but with these two cases that have already happened, everyone will be at attention and on point to make sure this can never happen again," Moore said.

Tonight, Thomas' mother said she is rooting for the officer her son shot.

"I'm praying for the officer that was hurt," Hardnett said. "I wish him the best recovery and I'm very sorry that happened to him."


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