Jeremy Goulet served two years in prison for a gun crime, one of his many tangles with law enforcement in both military and civilian life. And his father described him as a "ticking time bomb" who would do anything to avoid going back behind bars.
So how did this troubled man still have three handguns registered to him when two Santa Cruz police detectives arrived on his doorstep Tuesday, only to pay with their lives?
Goulet, 35, wasn't in California's much-heralded database that has helped authorities confiscate the guns of convicts and mentally ill people. Nor was he in the FBI's database used to prevent such people from buying guns, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said Friday. And under Oregon law, his 2008 misdemeanor convictions for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and invasion of privacy -- his gun went off while he was being beaten by the boyfriend of a woman he was peeping on -- did not bar him from owning a gun once he finished his probation and two years behind bars.
We do know one thing: Santa Cruz now takes its place among places like Big Bear, Newtown, Aurora and Tucson because Goulet's murderous act -- and his own death in a hail of gunfire from other officers -- becomes the latest chapter in the raging national debate over how to keep firearms away from dangerously unstable people.
"No one wants to be a fink, a tattletale, but if someone's 'a ticking time bomb' you're not being a tattletale. That's someone who needs an assessment," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who introduced a bill this week to help states do more to keep guns from dangerous people.
Federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year from owning a gun. Goulet served two years because the judge gave him two consecutive one-year sentences for the two misdemeanors. But because neither crime was punishable by more than a year by itself, neither prohibited him from owning a gun.
In 2006, the former Blackhawk helicopter pilot beat charges that could have landed him in a military prison for life, as the Army dropped two separate rape charges against Goulet in Hawaii in exchange for an administrative "other than honorable" discharge. Had he been convicted or given a dishonorable discharge, that also would have merited a report to the FBI's database and prevented him from legally buying guns.
It's also possible that even had he ever been flagged by California's database, called the Armed Prohibited Persons System, he would be among the nearly 20,000 backlogged names on which authorities have lacked the manpower to follow up.
Minutes after Tuesday's shootings, police broadcast to other officers that Goulet had three firearms legally registered to his name. That indicated that the guns were legally purchased in California, since Oregon has no firearms registration. Witnesses told Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies that he had sold two of the three handguns at some point. He used the remaining gun, a Sig Sauer .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun, to kill the officers.
Goulet's tearful father this week told reporters his son had been a "ticking time bomb," unable to resist his sexual urges and seething with anger at police. His comments raised questions about when people are responsible to report unstable relatives who own guns.
Sadly, it was only one of the latest. On the same day that Goulet shot and killed the two detectives on his doorstep, a Connecticut grandmother with a history of mental health problems shot and killed her two grandsons and then herself with her husband's .38-caliber revolver.
Ironically, Connecticut is one of only two states that make it easier for authorities to seize weapons from unstable people.
If someone poses a risk of imminent injury to himself or others, Connecticut authorities can ask a judge for a warrant to seize that person's firearms without first taking the person into custody or to court; the owner is entitled to a hearing within 14 days.
A study of that law's use from 1999 through 2009 found police sought at least 277 warrants and seized more than 2,000 guns, with the vast majority of seizures upheld at hearings; police found guns in 96 percent of cases in which they did a search.
Indiana lets police seize firearms without a warrant from dangerously mentally ill people or those engaging in violent or unstable conduct, so long as a judge signs off on it afterward.
In California and other states, it's harder to seize a firearm until after the owner appears in court, is committed to a mental institution, has a restraining order against them or is reported by a licensed psychotherapist.
Experts say families should use common sense to identify, help and if necessary report unstable relatives with guns.
"In many and probably most cases where family members are worried about one of their relatives having access to guns, we're not dealing with mental illness -- we're dealing with people who drink too much, have bad tempers, are angry at their boss or former girlfriend," said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a Columbia University professor of psychiatry, medicine and law. "The majority of violent crimes are not committed by people with mental illness."
The Santa Cruz Sentinel contributed to this report.
California and federal law make it unlawful for certain people to have firearms, including anyone: