Richard Luther Russell is now 65. The Vietnam Veteran, a former medic, lives at 17 Pershing lane in Palm Coast. He’s owned that property since 1999. He’s been getting arrested, charged and found guilty of brandishing firearms and discharging them in public, usually around his house in the P Section, going back to 2003: four arrests in that time span, seven charges, one of them a felony, four guilty convictions.
But judges have not been harsh with him. He’s served little to no jail time in that time span. The first time he got probation he was able to end it after six months. The second time he got probation, for three years, he was able to end it after 18 months. Twice judges have withheld adjudication, the last time only last year. He was also once deferred to pre-trial intervention and got his charge dropped that way. Since adjudication was withheld on his felony charge, he is not considered a felon and therefore may keep his weapons.
But he’s been Baker Acted previously, at least once in connection with firing a gun.
Each time he’s returned home and repeated the sort of weapons-related offenses that had previously gotten him in trouble, his case resulting in light punishment and no jail time. His house is not isolated. He has neighbors on either side of his quarter-acre lot. There are three houses across the street.
On Monday, Russell was charged with his most serious alleged crime yet: shooting or throwing a missile at a vehicle, a second-degree felony, and criminal mischief of less than $1,000.
He’d been allegedly throwing rocks at passing cars on State Road A1A in Flagler Beach. He struck some of them. One of them was carrying a 7-year-old child.
According to a caller to 911, Russell was standing by the construction barricades on South Oceanshore Boulevard, throwing rocks. The distance between the barricades and the travel lanes in the construction zone is less than the proverbial stone’s throw. A Flagler Beach police officer immediately recognized Russell “from past incidents,” according to Russell’s arrest report. The officer spotted “several rocks approximately 8-12 inches in diameter in the middle of South Oceanshore Boulevard.”
Russell claimed, in words the officer quoted, that he “threw the rocks at the vehicles to protect himself from the cars,” and that he had allegedly been almost hit by the cars several times. The construction zone is engineered in such a way that pedestrians are fenced off the travel lanes, which are very narrow. The alleged victim whose car was struck told officers that she saw Russell standing on the construction barricades on the east side of the road as he threw rocks. A large rock struck the hood of her vehicle, leaving a dent and a scratch, damage valued at $500. Her son was sitting in the front-passenger seat.
Russell told an officer he didn’t know there was a child in the car, and apologized. He said he would pay for the damages. He was booked at the county jail, where he remained today on $11,000 bond.
In February 2018, neighbors of Russell’s Pershing lane house called 911 to report that he was outside, firing a gun. A water salesman was making deliveries in the neighborhood when Russell approached him and mumbled something the salesman didn’t understand. Russell then walked back toward his house, a gun in his hand. The salesman felt compelled to warn his customers nearby. As the salesman was driving away, Russll came back out with a gun and fired a shot in the air, according to his arrest report at the time.
There was a brief tense moment when deputies confronted him in his driveway as he was believed to still have his gun. He repeatedly did not comply with deputies commands until he had to be tased. A deputy found a Silver Colt 44 Special on the dining room table, unsecured, with four live rounds and one spent casing. A charge of discharging a firearm in public was filed against him, but he wasn’t arrested: he was Baker Acted instead. Eleven months ago, he pleaded no contest, and adjudication was withheld.
In 2007, he’d faced a felony charge of aggravated assault with a firearm, which was then downgraded to aggravated assault with a weapon–a third degree felony–that still exposed him to considerable prison time. “Basically, it was an alcohol drug thing,” the prosecution told the court at the time. “Comes out with a firearm, shoots it into the ground, evidently frightened the person that was driving him to his friend’s at that time. And so it’s–and the problem is, we have a reckless display of a weapon.”
And the firing of a shot. The prosecution was willing to go with three years’ probation. But the prosecutor stressed to the judge: “We want to make sure that he doesn’t have the ability to get firearms, that he will not be–possess firearms, because obviously, that’s a bad mix. He has a prior reckless display of weapons, prior disorderly intox[ication], DUI. So this is kind of like a history.”
The judge–Kim Hammond–said that he would be violating probation if he possessed weapons during that term. The prosecution was concerned beyond that, however: “After he gets off probation we want to make sure that he does not get weapons because that’s the main interest of the state here,” the prosecutor (Steve Gosney at the time) told the judge. “We could have been looking at a three-year minimum mandatory in prison because of the aggravated assault with a firearm an discharge.” Gosney stressed again, “we want to make sure that he doesn’t get weapons in the future, firearms in the future. That’s something he should be avoiding with the alcohol and drug issue.”
Russell claimed he’d never threatened anyone. “I just capped one in my yard,” he said. “I was warning him down.” He told Hammond that he’d been a medic in Cambodia, “not one of those kill crazy Vietnam vets. I’ve seen a lot of them, but I’m not one of them.” Hammond, citing the right to bear arms, said he wasn’t willing to withdraw Russell’s right to possess weapons beyond the three-year probation term. “Three years is enough reminder that he’s not going to do that again,” Hammond said.
“No, sir. I won’t do it again,” Russell told Hammond.
Eighteen months later, Russell wrote the court to ask that his probation be terminated. In a letter to the court, Russell described himself as “100% disabled service connected Vietnam veteran” with “bunches and bunches of doctor and surgeon appointments.” Hammond granted the early termination.
Last year, Russell did it again. Just as he had in 2007, in 2006 and 2003, and before he turned to throwing rocks at passing cars this week.
obviously more hair than sense. He needs to talk to some one for a long time somewhere else.
How many red flags are needed before he hurts someone? Obviously he needs constant care for his mental illness!
@Mark.. 100% correct. But we authorities will wait until he hurts someone and then there will be an article about “there were indications that he had issues”….
Sounds like this man needs to be evaluated for a 72 hour hold in an impatient behavioral services unit–which requires that he be Baker Acted. From there, the best treatment plan would be to hook him up for long-term treatment through the VA.
Sounds like this man needs to be locked up in a mental institution. To many times he has attempted to harm others. Time for action courts.
Guaran-dam-tee you if he were a black man he’d been sent up the river a decade ago. Two justice systems in America.
Willy Boy says
65 born c.1954. Nixon sent troops into the Parrot’s Peak area of Cambodia in the spring of 1970. This nut would have been 16. Possible, but need to see a DD 214 on that claim.
Stretchem I agree with the statement you wrote. A person of color would probably be dead. Not just because he did something like that but s white woman to call and just suspect him would put him in jail or arrested. Remember Starbucks last year. I do not drink coffee there.A phone call and a lie will cause a man of color an arrest or his life. White women some of you are terrible.
Again, the VA (Veterans Administration) has failed our men and women who served. He needs all kinds of help, physically and mental, especially the mental part. He is a danger to society and himself. You are all correct in saying he is an accident waiting to happen – and it could be anyone of use. VA step forward and take proper care of our war veterans! The judge needs to refer him to the VA, obviously our local needs are inadequate.
I am so glad this outstanding citizen still has the right to bear arms so we can be safe. Obviously mental illnesses should not be a deterrent to this right.
Rod iuteri says
Rich is a victim of agent orange. He has his faculties. If, he wanted to hurt someone he could. He was one bad ass soldier. I thank him for his service and personal sacrifice. I’m good with the judge’s decision. Please let’s not bring race into this, it’s not warranted.
Willy Boy, we had troops in and around Nam till 1975, I know cause I was there and I’m the same age.
Tunnel Rat says
Willy Boy, I too was in Nam and also 65 this year. I enlisted the day after I graduated High School. I was 15 1/2 years old. Had to get my Dad to sign for me to go in…….So YES, he probably was in Nam and like me went in at a very early age…….. Unlike me, I don’t shoot my firearms off in public ( that’s why they have Gun Ranges ). I believe he’s just an old “war dog” that has lost patience with this country’s PC bullsh*t and reacts the only way he knows how to. Yes, I think he should be Baker Acted for a few days and if found “not sane” then remove his weapons ( very carefully )….Remember he is a Nam Vet and we don’t like assh*les taking our weapons from us !!!!
Just a thought says
Oldtimer and Tunnel Rat, thank you for your service. Others here need a history lesson.
JustMe Truth says
Another case of courts being way to lenient on this vet who obviously needs some help and not getting that either. The system has let this person down, and until the government humanely addresses this issue it will continue to happen; at the expense of innocent people.
Michael Cocchiola says
If this guy was black or brown, he’d be in prison right now.
@ Michael C,
He doesn’t need a prison, he needs a mental hospital. Although that may be the same thing today. Sad.
He has been Baker Acted several times over and he doesn’t follow through with his treatment from theVA. The courts have been too lenient for too long- too many chances at this point is like playing Russian Roulette. He needs permanent psychiatric care where he gets constant medical attention and supervision. It’s sad but unfortunately it’s the case here.
Sad but true…. and nobody would have his back on how he needs help and not prison nor would they be defending his right to bear arms….
wendy m smith says
I have lived in this cty since before PC became a city and all through the yrs it has been my experience and others that to implement change at least 5 people must die in the same spot. The it is considered. I know it IS time for a big change tell me though how do the little people achieve the change in such a richly dominated city?