Seal Beach shooting: Suspect suffered PTSD from boat injury
The suspect in the Seal Beach salon shooting rampage, Scott Evans Dekraai, 42, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of a tugboat accident in 2007, according to court records.
His doctor, Ronald T. Silverstein of Long Beach, made the diagnosis in court documents dated Sept. 30, 2008, that were contained in Dekraai's divorce and custody proceedings.
The letter also stated that repeated phone calls from Dekraai's ex-wife Michelle Fournier -– the alleged target of Wednesday's shooting -– were "extremely stressful" and "not healthy" for Dekraai.
As a result of that letter, the court limited contact between the couple to only one telephone call a week, initiated by Fournier.
The tugboat accident occurred in February 2007. A deckhand, 26-year-old Piper Cameron, was killed when she was crushed by a rope attached from the tug to the barge. Dekraai witnessed the accident and suffered a broken leg.
But after Dekraai nearly lost his legs in that accident, he was permanently disabled, according to Don Ashley, owner of Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach, where he worked aboard the company's fleet of sportfishing boats for about 10 years.
Dekraai worked his way up from apprentice deckhand to getting his captain's license, working for Catalina Express, and later, on a tugboat run by the firm Foss Maritime, Ashley said in an interview.
Before that mishap, he was a well-regarded worker and friend -- just one of the guys, Ashley said.
"Everybody loved him. If you asked me a hundred people and gave me from a scale of one to 10 who would be most likely to flip, he wouldn't have been there," Ashley said. "He was a nice person. It's hard to say that, and everybody's going to say, what the hell, you're standing up for a mass killer, but he had a nice personality. Up until the accident he was heavy into fishing and watersports like surfing and boogie boarding."
But that all changed after the accident. As he coped with the injuries to his legs, he was bed-ridden and having surgery after surgery. Once trim and muscular, he became overweight.
"The last four or five years, he was pretty miserable," Ashley said. And the companies he had worked for struggled to find him work.
In one conversation, he told Ashley the circulatory and nerve damage and pain were so bad he would have been better off if he had lost his legs.
When he and his wife, Michelle, divorced, they fought over custody of their 8-year-old son, with whom Dekraai had a deep attachment, Ashley said. Michelle had two other children from a previous relationship, a son and a daughter who are now in their 20s, Ashley said.
"Michelle [had a] fun-loving, outgoing personality," Ashley said. "She was a hairdresser, and you pretty much have to be outgoing to be a hairdresser."
When Ashley heard the news Wednesday that Dekraai was suspected of shooting eight people, he was surprised and shaken.
"What a bummer," Ashley thought. "Then I'm thinking as a father, what's the son going to do? ... It's a tragedy for lots of families."
--Tony Barboza and Nicole Santa Cruz
Photo: Scott Evans Dekraai. Credit: Seal Beach Police Department