Wife of metro Detroit veteran killed in standoff with police speaks out

Posted at 9:18 PM, Aug 28, 2017

He was a veteran who risked his life serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then last week his life came to an end after a standoff with police. His wife says she wants people to know what led to his tragic death.

Twenty-eight-year-old Colton Puckett was a corporal in the Marines.  His wife says he loved his country.  He loved his family.

“He mentioned a few things he had seen overseas, and he was having a hard time for it,” said Kristen Puckett of her husband.

“He saw his friends die. He saw some of them get extremely hurt, losing limbs and hearing their screams and crying for help.”

That friend who lost limbs would become someone he spoke to regularly when struggling. Kristen says they helped each other get by as they worked to adjust to civilian life.  Then, earlier this year that friend died of suspected suicide. Colton was devastated.  A short time after his friend died, he came to her and told her he needed help.  He wanted to check himself in for mental health treatment at the VA hospital.  He underwent about a week of inpatient treatment.  He then was prepared to go to a three-month long inpatient program. 

Kristen says it didn’t go as planned.  The doctors changed up his medication. He complained he couldn’t sleep.  He became agitated.  He checked himself out of the hospital. 

They worked to get him an appointment with a psychiatrist, but the soonest appointment was next month.  He would never make it to the appointment.

Last Wednesday when she got home from work, her husband who had spent the day caring for their 4-year-old son told her he wanted to commit suicide.

“I told him we needed you and would be lost without you, especially that little boy in there. He said he would be fine, that he would be better off without him,” said Kristen.

They argued.  Kristen says the husband who never before hit her, became violent. She called police for help.  She never imagined the standoff that followed would end as it did at their Waterford Township home.  Colton threatened police over the phone.  The marine trained to kill then came out of the house with a shotgun.  Kristen says if he wanted to hurt someone, he could have.  Police said he charged at them while holding the gun, so they shot and killed him.

“I want the VA to step up their game,” said Kristen.

Kristen says she has been active in her husband’s care. She knows the Veterans Affairs hospitals have improved treatment in recent years.  She knows there is help available if veterans pursue it.  She also thinks it could be improved.

She said it would be beneficial to veterans if they had more places to go and families were allowed to be more involved.  She said for her husband, making a psychiatric appointment was a trigger.  When he made the appointment, he would think about why he needed it, and his mental state would deteriorate.  He asked her to make appointments for him. When she tried to make some appointments for him for psychiatric care she was told he needed to make the call.

She wants to see an effort to raise awareness about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. She says sometimes Colton was made to feel as if his issues were not legitimate, because they were wounds you could not physically see with your eyes. She feels if there is more awareness, more people will be able to get help.

She doesn’t want other families to lose a loved one, as she and her son have.

“If you are struggling with PTSD, please get help. There are people who care about you. You might feel they don’t, but there are a lot of people who care.”