Eight hours before a San Diego man driving a McLaren killed himself and two others in a high-speed, rush-hour collision on Interstate 805, police were warned about his dangerous behavior.
Police dispatch logs obtained by NBC 7 Investigates reveal a family friend of the driver told police that 18-year-old Trevor Heitmann was “screaming, paranoid and delusional” and had “threatened to harm his mom” at the Heitmann family home in Carmel Valley.
At 8:13 a.m. on Aug. 23, the morning of the deadly crash, the unidentified caller told dispatchers that Heitmann “needs to be evaluated and (possibly) placed on (a) 5150 (involuntary mental health) hold.” According to the dispatch logs, police arrived at the Heitmann home 12 minutes later, at 8:25 a.m.
At 9:14 a.m., officers advised dispatch that “based on statements from (Heitmann’s) parents, there was no credible threat, and the subject did not meet 5150 criteria. Parents advised that if we went in house to ask subject if he would voluntarily go to hospital, subject may become violent. We did not encounter subject. Dad advised that he convinced son to go talk to doctor later today.”
Dr. Clark Smith, a forensic psychiatrist, reviewed the dispatch logs, which NBC 7 Investigates obtained through a Public Records Act request.
Smith said he will not second guess or criticize police or Heitmann’s parents for their actions that morning, but also said Heitmann did meet the criterion for involuntary, temporary commitment to the county mental facility because his behavior posed a clear “danger to others,” in this case, his mother, whom he had threatened to harm.
“There might have been a confrontation, but that would have been far better than what happened” later that day, when Heitmann drove his high-powered McLaren sports car the wrong way in the carpool lane of southbound I-805, crashing head-on with an SUV, killing himself and the two occupants of the other vehicle.
Dr. Smith said that when Heitmann’s father told police his son would get psychiatric help that same day, “he was basically saying, ‘OK, the threat is over.’ I don’t think that’s true,” Smith said. “But that’s what (police) heard, when the father said that.”
Dr. Smith said some parents don't want to anger or alienate a mentally-ill child by having them committed. He added that emotions are understandable.
"It's out of love, you know, a parent's love for a child. But sometimes, your child needs (professional) help that a parent can't safely provide."
According to the dispatch logs, Heitmann’s father called police again at 4:29 p.m.
“(Reporting party’s) son is in a manic state,” the dispatch notes reveal. “Just drove off at a high rate of speed. Was not making sense to (reporting party). Son is driving a (black, two-door) McLaren high performance (vehicle).”
Police arrived at the Heitmann home for a second time, at 4:34 p.m. The dispatch log notes that “father said son drove off. Was on phone with him and he said he was going to a park and was going 150 mph, on the wrong side of the road.”
By then, it was too late to stop, Heitmann, who had already crashed his McLaren into the SUV.
Dr. Smith said in this case, hindsight shows that a different decision that morning might have avoided that deadly crash.
"Yes, it will make them angry if you take away their car keys or if you call the police,” Smith said. “But far better that than the tragedy that happened."