By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The man charged with shooting two men on a Metro Transit bus last Thursday was civilly committed in September 2019.

Prosecutors charged 26-year-old Malcolm Lessley with murder and he’s in jail with a two-million dollar bail.

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“It’s complicated when you are dealing with someone in the criminal justice system and who has a serious mental illness because you are dealing with two systems at the same time,” Sue Abderholden said.

Abderholden is the executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Minnesota.

She says here and across the country we’re seeing an increase in the number of people being found incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness.

“And then once they are deemed incompetent to stand trial there is another leg where many of those people are actually committed,” Abderholden said. “Once you’re committed from the jail you have basically 48 hours or so to get to a state run facility, typically at Anoka.”

Malcom Lessley was found incompetent to continue court proceedings after he was accused of pointing a gun at the head of a cab driver in 2019.

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That’s when a judge civilly committed him.

What happened to him after that is unclear. But prosecutors say he was on a Metro Transit bus on February 6th where he shot one man to death and critically injured another.

Sue is now working with lawmakers to try and update the state’s civil commitment statue.

“Why do we wait until someone is a danger to themselves or others before we get them help, so what we want to do is move that help up,” Abderholden said.

With a goal of getting those in need of help to voluntarily go into treatment.

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Abderholden says a lack of insurance, or long wait times to see a therapist, are other issues that can make it easy for some patients to fall through the cracks.

Reg Chapman