The 22-year-old man who police said killed two women stopped for a passing train in San Marco in August before he took his own life showed several red flags. That’s what the News4JAX I-TEAM has learned from newly obtained police reports.
Jacksonville detectives said Ty Head killed himself within 24 hours of the seemingly random shooting. He had no criminal history but had a number of mental health and substance abuse issues.
There’s no reason to believe that Paige Pringle, 28, and Tara Baker, 52, knew their killer.
Dozens of pages of police records raise questions about if he should have been able to buy a gun.
The reports don’t hold all the answers about what happened here in August — they don’t tell us why a young man decided to take two lives before killing himself — but they show he was troubled and there were red flags and his own parents warned about the danger.
Head’s documented problems go back to 2020. His parents told detectives he dropped out of college due to COVID-19 and was suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.
They put him in a sober living home in Nashville then he was committed to a mental health facility before bouncing around to halfway houses in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach. He left the last home in June after he was accused of fighting and records show he bought a handgun from an arms dealer in Jacksonville Beach on June 24. He did it legally despite his mental health struggles. That was just two months before he killed Pringle and Baker.
“When a tragedy like this happens, we want someone to rise up and take culpability or take responsibility. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple,” said Dr. Tracy Packiam, a psychologist and professor at the University of North Florida. She said the red flags are clear.
“It sounds like the parents did everything they could to provide the right mental health support for this individual. It sounds like the person was receiving treatment. It’s unfortunate that they were kicked out,” Packiam said.
It appears he slipped through the cracks. Federal law prohibits those who have been committed from buying a firearm, but it had to have been for more than 72 hours, and it had to have been documented. Florida law prohibits someone from buying a gun if they’ve been court-ordered for substance abuse treatment, but in this case, it looks like he voluntarily checked in.
“It’s the issue of reporting now,” Packiam said. “So as a licensed psychologist, it is part of my duty also to make sure that the individual is not a threat to themselves, not a threat to others around them. And if they are, that they don’t have access to firearms, either in a safe or in their home. And in many cases, a partner or spouse or family member will have removed these weapons from access to this individual. And it’s unfortunate that in this instance, this procedure was not followed through.”
A day before the murders, Head’s parents in Ocala called Jacksonville police for a welfare check. They’d given him $2,600 and he responded with irrational messages. But officers wrote he was lucid and not a threat to himself or others. The next day, he shot the women and a day later he was found dead near Nashville using the same gun he purchased in June and used in the murders.
“These laws are in place to protect the individual from themselves as a threat to themselves. In this particular case, it does appear that police found this person not to be a mental health risk to themselves. So there is some concern about where the breakdown occurs,” Packiam said.
Packiam hopes the incident is a wake-up call to prevent future tragedies.