A homeless man who refused to leave the Monterey Bridge and then Monterey Park for weeks this spring and summer was found not competent to stand trial in Rock County Court on Thursday.
Whether Jeremiah J. Kemper, 34, would be held at a mental-health facility against his will or be released was the main question at a hearing before Judge Karl Hanson.
Social workers and police tried, starting in April, to persuade Kemper to stop camping on city property, and police believed Kemper had the resources to get himself an apartment, but he refused.
Police issued citations but said they could not force him to leave.
Then on July 17, police arrested Kemper after an incident at the park. A man who was fishing with his family saw Kemper at his car, approached Kemper, and Kemper held a knife over his head and said he was an undercover officer, police said.
Kemper was held—it wasn’t clear whether at the jail or a mental-health facility—and charged with impersonating a police officer, disorderly conduct while armed and obstructing.
A psychiatrist’s report indicates Kemper was unlikely to regain competence in time to face the charges, and Hanson ruled the same at Thursday’s hearing.
Defense attorney Jason Sanders argued that his client, who had been found guilty of nothing, had been held since July on a cash bond and for nonpayment of tickets and should be released.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Dirks disagreed, saying the psychiatrist’s report says Kemper has struggled to live independently and has a long history of behaviors dangerous to himself and others and remains dangerous, Dirks said.
Dirks requested Kemper be turned over to the state Department of Health Services and held for treatment.
Sanders noted the law is written with the most important question being whether to deprive a person of his liberty.
Dirks responded: “I understand Mr. Sanders’ concerns about Mr. Kemper being held, but I’m also concerned about his welfare and, frankly, the welfare of other people in the community if he goes back out on the street without anything that can govern his behavior.”
Hanson said there’s a possibility Kemper is a danger to himself and that it’s appropriate that Kemper continue to be held at a mental-health facility while matters are resolved.
Hanson said state statutes give Rock County until Tuesday to file a petition for involuntary commitment to a mental-health facility or to appoint a guardian. If the county fails to do so, Kemper must be released, Hanson said.
If the county files for involuntary commitment, a judge must rule on that question.
Hanson set a hearing for Friday, Sept. 27, to discuss the status of criminal charges and city citations that remain against Kemper.