Longform

The Other American Sniper

BY MICHAEL BARAJAS

Maria Esparza awoke to what she thought was the sound of her husband cooking -- the hiss and pop of fresh vegetables dropped into a pan of hot oil. Reality set in when Roy Esparza told her to keep her head down as bullets cracked and whizzed through their two-story home in the Texas Hill Country.

"There's something going on," he told her. "I think it's your son."

Roy dialed 911 and reached a Comal County dispatcher just before 4 a.m. on May 27, 2011. Somebody had just sprayed the house with bullets, he told the dispatcher, who told him to stay put inside. The dispatcher asked if anyone had recently threatened them. "Yes, our son," Roy said before hesitating.

"I don't know...I don't want to say it was him. He's paranoid schizophrenic. He's been diagnosed. He came from Iraq."

Roy handed the phone to his wife, who gave the dispatcher a stripped-down version of Adan Castañeda's steep mental decline since he'd returned from war three years earlier. Sounding more exhausted than frightened, Maria told the officer her 25-year-old son had been in and out of psychiatric treatment. He's mentally ill, she said. She told the dispatcher about the bizarre text messages she'd received from Castañeda that had only grown more violent and disturbing in recent weeks.

He's been to the local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital -- many times, she stressed -- but they won't keep him.

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