Creigh Deeds: 'The system failed my son'

State Senator Creigh Deeds (D-VA) speaks in Richmond, Va. on Nov. 2, 2009.
State Senator Creigh Deeds (D-VA) speaks in Richmond, Va. on Nov. 2, 2009.

Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds recounted the harrowing experience of being stabbed multiple times by his son last November in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday. The day before the stabbing, Austin “Gus” Deeds, then 24, was released by a Virginia medical center after undergoing a psychiatric evaluation because there was no psychiatric bed available and the emergency custody order under which he was being held expired after six hours.

“The system failed my son,” Deeds said he told a representative from the county’s mental health care agency.

"I was concerned that if he came home there was going to be a crisis," Deeds said. "I felt like there'd be a confrontation but I didn't, I had no reason to think there'd be violence.”

Deeds said he was feeding the horses in the barn when his son approached him.

"I said, 'Hey bud, how'd you sleep?' He said, 'fine.' I turned my back ... and he was just on me," Deeds recalled.

"I said, 'Gus, I love you so much.' I said, 'Don't make this any worse than it is.' He just kept coming at me."

After stabbing his father in the head and chest multiple times, Gus turned a gun on himself. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

The tragedy brought a renewed focus on the state of mental health care, which forcefully reentered the public debate after 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. A report released by prosecutors last year said Lanza had “significant mental health issues,” but also knowledge of what he was doing. Lawmakers also submitted recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, in which 32 people were killed.

The number of psychiatric beds in freestanding psychiatric hospitals has been declining in recent years, with a 13% drop from 2002 to 2011, according to the American Hospital Association. Around 200 Virginia residents were released from custody between April 2010 and March 2011 due to a lack of space in the facilities, according to a 2011 state Inspector General report.