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Sheriff: Shooting suspects temperament has improved following psych evaluation

by: Courtesy photo Daniel A. Butts

Daniel A. Butts, the Washington man accused of fatally shooting Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter on Jan. 5, completed two psychological evaluations earlier this month.

The psychological evaluations were conducted to determine whether Butts is fit to aid in his own defense. Butts' attorneys have told the court that their client may suffer from serious mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. A courtroom outburst in January also cast doubt upon his mental health.

But in recent weeks, Butts' temperament has gone from confrontational - evidenced by his courtroom outbursts and jail cell karate practice - to more passive and accepting of jail life, said Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.

'It's not that [his behavior] is any more uncommon than anyone else who executes police chiefs,' Dickerson said. 'I wouldn't call him normal. But we have not had problems with him in recent weeks.'

The results of the evaluations, conducted by Oregon State Hospital psychologists at the Columbia County Courthouse, will receive judicial review upon their completion.

That could take a few more weeks, according to officials at the Oregon State Hospital.

Evaluating Butts at the courthouse was an uncommon move.

Psychological evaluations typically take place at Oregon State Hospital's Salem campus, according to Rebeka Gipson-King, the hospital's communications manager.

The decision to hold the evaluations in the county, rather than transporting the suspect to Salem, helped save resources, Dickerson said.

'It was great for us,' he added.

The evaluation's setting, a courthouse jail room, should not change the outcome of the evaluation, Gipson-King said.

'I don't see why it would color the findings of the evaluation in any way,' she said.

During the first evaluation, on March 4, Butts' attorneys were present. During the second, on March 8, the attorneys were not present.

The Sheriff's department monitored both evaluations from a nearby room.