We may never know exactly what went on inside the mind of Theodore “TJ” Jones IV the night he shot at and was killed by police.
But his family says the last words from the Maryville, Tenn., Marine provide insight into the night. They decided to release text messages sent to them on the night of death to give people an idea of what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder looks like in a combat veteran.
Jones was armed with a gun on March 21 and barricaded himself in a vacant building in downtown Maryville. He fired on police and cars driving by. Police returned fire and killed him.
His family says Jones was diagnosed with chronic PTSD and anxiety disorders. They say the night of his death he was having a flashback tied to his military service. TJ had served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they didn’t realize how serious it had become.
“The screams in the night, he started drinking more, he said he could never relax,” said his father, Theodore Jones III. “In hindsight there was so many things that should have tipped us off, but families don’t know those. They don’t know it until it is too late. And when it’s too late, all you’ve got left is to help somebody else.”
The night of his death, his dad called him when he didn’t come home.
“My last communications were inside of this phone in a text message,” his dad said. “I texted, ‘Please come home and sleep on the couch.’ He said, ‘No sir, whatever it takes.’”
At 2:52 a.m., TJ said, “The war is on.”
His dad said, “What war? Please come in the house.”
TJ responded with, “Whatever it takes sir!!!!”
His dad called police early into the conversation. He knew that this time TJ’s flashback had come to life. Police killed him after he shot at them.
“When he came out of that building the last time they even said that he was yelling out orders to a squad of men that weren’t there,” his dad said.
His family doesn’t blame the police. Instead, they want to see more follow through from the military for our wounded warriors.
“We think about and honor those who lost their life there and those who were wounded and TJ was wounded, but we don’t think about those who bring the war home with them. We don’t think about a continuum of care,” said TJ’s sister Stephanie Kirk.
The Blount County Veterans Affairs office said PTSD is something they see every single day in all generations of veterans. They said even families can suffer from secondary PTSD from living with a family member with it.
June is PTSD awareness month. June 27 is PTSD awareness day.
If you know someone battling symptoms, the Jones family encourages you to contact your local veterans affairs office and take it seriously.
If you or someone you know is dealing with PTSD, call the Veterans Crisis Line for help (1-800-273-8255) or go to its website. If you need immediate assistance, call 911.
For more information about how to get help from the VA for PTSD, check out its website.