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Ex-soldier sought suicide
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Ex-soldier sought suicide
Parents: Man police shot is veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress

A knife-wielding man police shot outside a Wilson home last week is an Army veteran who was attempting suicide after a long struggle with depression, his parents say.

Ryan Arcenio Borunda stood in the cul-de-sac outside his family’s Rand Road home clutching a knife after suffering a combat flashback last Thursday. "Go ahead and shoot me,” the 26-year-old’s father says he told police.

"I said, ‘My son is trying to get you to kill him. Don’t shoot him,’” Johnny Borunda recalled. "He was told to drop the knife. My son never dropped the knife.”

Within seconds, Officer Donald Lucas fired a single shot, striking Ryan Borunda in the stomach.

Borunda’s parents don’t fault police for using deadly force to stop their son, who they say wanted to die after a painful divorce and years-long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I’m not placing blame on the police officer who was put in an unfortunate situation and did what he had to do,” Johnny Borunda said. "I’ll go on the record to thank him and commend him. He did what he had to do, but he pretty much saved my son’s life.”

The State Bureau of Investigation is examining the shooting, which is standard practice when a police officer uses deadly force. State law allows officers to use lethal force if they reasonably believe their life or another person’s life is in imminent danger or to prevent a convicted felon from escaping.

Borunda survived the shooting and police obtained an involuntary commitment order to have him hospitalized for mental health treatment, Capt. Tad Shelton said Friday.

Ryan Borunda tried killing himself by overdosing on drugs earlier this year, his parents said.

Johnny and Carmen Borunda don’t condone their son’s behavior, but they acknowledge he’s fought an exhausting emotional battle and say the U.S. Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs have repeatedly let him fall through the cracks of a broken military mental health system.

"I’m not making excuses for what my son did — it was wrong,” Johnny Borunda said. "But there’s always reasons why things happen. Thousands of families are suffering over this.”



A Farmville Central High School graduate, Ryan Borunda enlisted in the Army at age 19, a fourth-generation soldier. He fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, serving multiple deployments with Army infantry and intelligence units.

"By talking to him on the phone, I knew there was a problem,” Johnny Borunda said, "and he was 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 miles away.”

In December 2009, Borunda was assigned to the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade, 1st Battalion, 38th Cavalry Regiment, Alpha Co., which is stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville.

His parents said — and court records confirm — that Borunda’s first run-in with the law came in January 2010, when he was charged with assault inflicting serious injury in Pitt County. He was convicted of the charge three months later and received probation.

Soon after his son’s arrest, Johnny Borunda said he went to Fort Bragg and told a non-commissioned officer in his son’s unit that he had concerns about his mental state.

"The military, because of his career and what he was doing in the military as a steady performer, his chain of command swept it under the rug,” Johnny Borunda said, lifting the corner of an area rug in his living room for emphasis.

"They were well aware of his problem,” Johnny Borunda said of officers in his son’s unit.

Now divorced, Ryan Borunda was married with three young children. His parents said a rocky marriage and guilt over being away from his kids aggravated his depression and anxiety.

Johnny Borunda said a chaplain in his son’s unit had provided some counseling, but Ryan Borunda resisted telling commanders about his mental state.

"Most military guys, they’re not going to seek that help because they think it’s a sign of weakness,” he said.

Carmen Borunda knows the Ryan who came home from war isn’t the same son she watched grow up in the couple’s former home in rural Pitt County between Greenville and Farmville.

"He has not been the same person since he came back,” she said. "It’s progressing to where he doesn’t want to live. He needs treatment. He needs help.”



Ryan Borunda was stationed in Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash., when he left the Army this January at the rank of specialist. After seven years in the military, he came home to Greenville with physical and mental scars.

Borunda’s parents said he suffered a back injury when an improvised explosive device hit a vehicle in his unit’s convoy and he was thrown from the back of a Stryker armored vehicle in Iraq in 2009. He received treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Durham.

Borunda’s mom said the adjustment to civilian life and the loss of his family through divorce made him increasingly depressed. He didn’t like asking for help and thought "sucking it up” was the only way to deal with his problems.

"The guy went into the military at 19 years old,” Carmen Borunda said. "That was his career. That’s all he knew to be a man. He didn’t let it out the way he should have, and whenever he’d start feeling like he wanted to cry, he’d self-medicate. That’s how he dealt with it.”

Borunda was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the VA hospital on an outpatient basis, his parents said, but VA doctors didn’t seem to grasp the severity of his mental illness.

Three months ago, Borunda overdosed on pills in an attempt to commit suicide. His parents said he was in a coma for two days in the VA’s intensive care unit. They expected a long-term commitment so that he could better manage his PTSD, but said doctors released him a day after he woke up.

"We thought that they were going to put him in a program for PTSD,” Johnny Borunda said. "As parents of an adult son, we have no recourse. It isn’t like we can demand they keep him.”



Ryan Borunda lived in Greenville but would often come visit his parents, who moved into their Wilson home in 2006. The Borundas said their son was depressed and had stayed with them for two days when he picked up a knife last Thursday.

Emergency dispatchers told police there had been a stabbing. Borunda’s parents said the only person he had intended to hurt was himself.

"I was never in fear for my life,” Johnny Borunda said. "He never charged at me — I am his dad. He was just telling me, ‘I don’t want to live, I don’t want to live!’ and when the police came, ‘I’m going to get them to shoot me.’”

Johnny Borunda said he tried to get the knife away from his son and cut his finger on the blade. Ryan Borunda’s brother also sustained minor cuts in the struggle.

"I went to grab the knife from him,” Johnny Borunda recalled. "I went to grab the tip and I cut myself.”

Carmen Borunda’s voice trembled as she discussed how her son has changed. Once trim and taut with a passion for working out, Ryan Borunda had gained weight, let his hair grow long and didn’t groom himself.

"I’m trying to get him to want to live, but he can’t do this himself,” she said. "He needs help. He’s my boy and I want him to want to live.”

The Borundas said they decided to share their son’s private struggle with the public to bring attention to the growing problem of military suicides and suicide attempts due to depression and PTSD.

"We wanted to do this for Ryan and for everybody,” Carmen Borunda said. "We need to speak out. We’re private people, and we just want to go on with our lives, but it’s our duty.”

In 2012, the number of active-duty suicides hit a record-high 349, topping the number of American troops who died in combat that year.

"I’ve seen it so much,” said Johnny Borunda, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division and left the Army in 1999 at a senior enlisted rank. "It’s not an isolated incident. It’s happening all over the place. Here it’s hitting home.” | 265-7821
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TO: PTSD said...

Thinking likes yours prevents many people who would benefit from help for mental illness from seeking it. Thank you to all who serve.

Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM
@ Ptsd said...

On behalf of those who are dealing (or have dealt) with these issues, your statements reflect the heights of idiocy. Can you really lack empathy (or belief) for those who might be suffering through their sacrifices made overseas for us as citizens? Do you not think their suffering is real? Whether you respond directly here again or not, I hope you'll reconsider your opinion. To the Borundas--I hope your son can find some measure of peace in this life, or at least calm the demons and bad memories. Thank you for sharing your story, despite the obvious difficulty of the circumstances. Your family will be in my prayers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 2:16 AM

If you are a veteran reading this I just want to say THANK YOU!!! There is no way we can ever repay you. God Bless You!!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Rob said...

Depression meds are frequently substituted with generics made overseas and are not regulated and you don't know what youre really taking even though they may have FDA approval there still crap! Stick with Made in the USA meds that work. Don't accept generics they can kill you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 10:50 PM
to PTSD said...

HOW DARE YOU! My father was in Vietnam and my Step Dad was in WWII. Both had recurring bad dreams and difficulty with certain smells - places etc and plenty of scars emotionally and physically. Just because they weren't diagnosed officially - does not mean that they don't/didn't suffer for YOUR freedom. Obviously you are one of these people that sit on their couches and purport to have it all figured out and everyone else is wrong. You, sir, are an abomination to America and the human race and should be sent to Baghdad just for the fun of it. I am an AMERICAN and feel like our VETERANS should be treated with RESPECT. Something you obviously know nothing about. So take your holier than thou, sniveling tail and crawl back under the rock you came from. You, unfortunately for us but because of these vets, have the freedom to express your views. But I too have the freedom to express my opinion of you and your views. And you should be ashamed of yourself. I also have the feeling that you have opened up a whole can of worms up here, which I'm sure was your intention. Have a nice evening.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:36 PM
Student of History said...

To ptsd: "World war I, world war II, korea, vietnam...nobody from those wars claimed ptsd..." You are correct. Nobody claimed because they did not know what it was called. They suffered from it. They didn't claim it, but they sure suffered it. The alcoholism, drug abuse, broken marriages, and more are all part of the large wake from the way we used to (and apparently still) treat our veterans.
I am happy you never saw it. I lived it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:00 PM scarredup said...

Its garbage until you have lived day in and day out with someone that suffers from it! When they suffer from it everyone under that roof suffers from it because you never know when it will be triggered! You try to be supportive of them and end up being scarred up too! Some moments are scary, some moments are heart wrenching, some are heart breaking and yes some are happy moments together just like normal families!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 4:51 PM Ptsd said...

World war I, world war II, korea, vietnam...nobody from those wars claimed ptsd, they just picked up and moved on. Too bad society has created a mental illness for everything. Now being occassionally angry is bipolar disorder and there is a pill for that. Suicide attempts are just a way of getting attention...pure garbage i say.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 3:50 PM A sad reality said...

I got to see PTSD from a lot of of our troops at Bragg when I was in school. I've seen it in my own brother. As the article states it is seen as a sign of weakness so no they won't talk about it. This incident also opens the doors for discussion for about PTSD in general. More youth are experiencing PTSD and with the deteriorating mental health systems like in this case they tend to look the other way. As with 9/11, Vietnam, rape or whatever the trauma may be there is a since of, with time "they'll get over it" but when you are truly faced with a life changing event that some wounds may heal...but others will still be forever etched in your mind and it takes a lot to be able to move forward when things constantly seem to be going downhill. I pray for this family and others who go through this struggle.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM ExperiencedFirstHand said...

This really hits home and I am praying for this family! Recently I was involved with a man that had been in military and was experiencing a lot of issues listed below! Some days were tolerable and some days were a nightmare ... mix it with alcohol and it adds fuel to fire! Professional help is the ONLY way! They have good hearts and good intentions but they lose themselves! Praying!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM jamatar said...

this family is in my prayers...I am not surprised that Ryan is having major problems...our troops have been used as cannon fodder and treated as collateral damage in conflicts that have been skewed for an outcome such as this...we see either bodies almost shredded or emotions in total turmoil...and sadly, our government is complicit...I support our troops wholeheartedly, but I am beginning to think our country would be safer to place them on our borders and stop wasting our money abroad...I pray for Ryan's healing and peace for him and his family...and to Ryan: thank you for your sacrifice for America...there is no way we can ever repay you...may God bless and keep you...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 8:03 AM Jim Richardson said...

I read the story about your son in todays newspaper and it touched my heart. I am so sorry about what happened to your son, but unfortunately, the VA health care system and the way they deal with mental health care is not a perfect system. I am not taking up for the VA system, because I am a veteran myself. Sadly, mental health care in America and even around the world takes a back seat to other health care issues and MUST change. I hope and pray that one day your son can finally get the help that he so desperately needs. My prayers are with your family.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM Army mom said...

I can't imagine the pain you are experiencing. My son is in the Army and has been deployed but has dealt with "coming home" better than most. Your son is in my prayers that he gets the help he needs, and he makes a full recovery to the man he once was. The family is in my prayers as well. Thank you for sharing this story, it is all too common these days. We need to be taking care of our heroes and getting them the help they need. PTSD is the invisible injury for most, or at least for a long time.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:36 AM Concerned Citizen PTSD SYMPTOMS said...

Post-traumatic stress disorder
Last reviewed: March 8, 2013.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Doctors do not know why traumatic events cause PTSD in some people but not in others. Your genes, emotions, and family setting may all play roles. Past emotional trauma may increase your risk of PTSD after a recent traumatic event.
With PTSD the body's response to a stressful event is changed. Normally, after the event the body recovers. The stress hormones and chemicals the body releases due to the stress go back to normal levels. For some reason in a person with PTSD the body keeps releasing the stress hormones and chemicals.
PTSD can occur at any age. It can occur after events such as:
Car accidents
Domestic abuse
Natural disasters
Prison stay
There are three types of PTSD symptoms:
1. Reliving the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity
Flashback episodes in which the event seems to be happening again and again
Repeated upsetting memories of the event
Repeated nightmares of the event
Strong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind you of the event
2. Avoidance
Emotional numbing or feeling as though you do not care about anything
Feeling detached
Not able to remember important parts of the event
Not interested in normal activities
Showing less of your moods
Avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event
Feeling like you have no future
3. Hyperarousal
Always scanning your surroundings for signs of danger (hypervigilance)
Not able to concentrate
Startling easily
Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger
Trouble falling or staying asleep
You may feel guilt about the event, including survivor guilt.
You may also have symptoms of anxiety, stress, and tension:
Agitation or excitability
Feeling your heart beat in your chest

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 3:34 AM
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