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Family of suspect in Colorado attempted school kidnapping pleads for more state mental health resources

Family of suspect in attempted school kidnapping pleads for more mental health resources
Family of suspect in attempted school kidnapping pleads for more mental health resources 02:55

An Aurora family is speaking out after one of their loved ones was arrested for allegedly walking onto a school playground and attempting to kidnap a child.

"It's been a real struggle for the family," said Sarah Galligan.

Sarah is the adoptive sister of 33-year-old Solomon Galligan, the person students at Black Forest Hills Elementary say walked onto the playground during recess and tried to take a child.

While Solomon claims to identify a woman, as Solomon was in the process of transitioning for several years, the family is choosing used he/him pronouns to help tell his story.

"We love him to death, but we can't help him the way he needs help and it's really difficult and the people who are able to help him aren't helping," said Sarah.

Images of a young Solomon, shared by the family, paint the picture of a bubbly, loving kid.

Childhood photos of Solomon Galligan CBS

"My mom is one of three biological [siblings], and she had 10 adopted siblings come into the family when she was 16, and Solomon was the youngest," said Amanda Morris, Solomon's niece. "Solomon is five years older than me. So, he was still pretty young growing up, but best of friends as you can tell from some pictures."

Pretty quickly, however, Solomon's family noticed his mental health declining. First it started out with being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD as a child and being put into special needs programs. Then, as a young adult, Solomon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. All this was also happening as Solomon was beginning the process of transitioning.

"The way schizophrenia and bipolar is, he's unable to make decisions for himself. He's got voices and other things making those choices for him, which then leads him to be off his medication," said Morris. "As he got older, Pueblo State Mental Hospital [was] kind of, unfortunately, his home."

Both family members say they tried everything they could over the years to help Solomon get better at home.

"It always results to him leaving, stealing stuff, not wanting to be on his meds and it gets to the point where it gets really hard to be able to watch that," said Sarah.

Solomon, instead became trapped in a cycle of the jail system, committing felony offenses including assault, and ended up incarcerated. However, his family says he kept getting released because of a lack of mental health resources.

Arrest photos of Solomon Galligan Aurora Police

"You get stuck in this process of, he does something he's not supposed to, gets arrested, goes to jail, deemed incompetent to stand trial. They do almost like a program where they give him his meds and make sure he's doing what he needs to do so that he then qualifies as competent to stand trial," said Morris.

The last time Morris says she saw Solomon in person was before the pandemic. Sarah, on the other hand, says she saw Solomon in March following a recent release from jail.

"I hadn't seen him since until I heard what happened," said Sarah.

They were shocked to learn and see the image of Solomon after he was taken into custody for getting onto the school playground.

"You see the picture, and he does not look human almost. He does look like a zombie in his portrait," said Morris. "It was like, 'Oh my gosh, he has been in some deep trouble.'"

They do not know how Solomon got that far south into the Aurora community, as he never came to the area. They also say they do not know why Solomon would have walked onto a school.  

"He never had troubles with children at all, and so that was a big surprise to me," said Sarah.

"There's no excuse for him being there and doing what he did and [parents] definitely have a right to be angry," said Morris. "Whether I was a kid on the playground or a parent of a child on the playground, yeah I would be scared and be affected by whatever happened there on the playground."

Solomon's family say they and lawyers have fought to keep him in a state hospital or in mental health care long term, because they believe situations like what happened at Black Forest Hills Elementary could have been avoided.

"What does it have to take for you guys to understand that he cannot be on his own," said Sarah.

"There's not enough rooms, there's not enough beds for people like him, and there should be more," said Morris.

Right now, the family says they are relieved Solomon is back in jail again.

"Because one, he can't harm anybody else and, two, we know where he is," said Morris.

Long term, however, they say there needs to be a change in the system to ensure felony offenders like Solomon that need help will get it.

"Get into a mental institution, be able to take his meds and to be watched over," said Sarah. "I don't want anybody else to come to harm, just because he's not able to take care of himself."

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