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Friends of ex-soldier accused in college knife attack cite PTSD

01/23/2014 07:59 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT
Friends of the man accused of attacking three people with a machete-like knife at a Fredericton career college on Monday say Luke Powers has post-traumatic stress disorder that has been mismanaged for years.

Monday morning, two students in a criminology course and a teacher were attacked with a knife by a man in a classroom at Eastern College on Prospect Street.

The man was restrained by students by the time police arrived.

Luke Thomas Walter Powers, 31, of Fredericton is charged with two counts of indictable aggravated assault, and one count of indictable assault.

A woman who calls herself Powers's closest friend says he barely resembles the man she met 12 years ago due to PTSD.

Shelly Bridger says 12 years ago Powers was a promising athlete and soldier. But Bridger says all that changed after a life-altering incident at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Powers was accidentally lit on fire and was gravely injured when his fellow soldiers stomped on him in a frantic effort to put out the flames.

"He was in excruciating pain 24 of 7," said Jared Arseneault, who served with Powers and eventually became a close friend.

Bridger says Powers changed after that incident and showed signs of PTSD and the military didn't do enough to help Powers.

"He had all the tell-tale signs. The withdrawal from social people. He'd stay in his house for days and days at a time. Bursts of anger.

"He became a very, very different person. There was a lot of signs there that they should have taken into account and forced him into treatment."

Arseneault says that incident ended Powers's military career and his hopes of being a boxer. He says Powers began a downward spiral as he struggled with depression, flashbacks, delusions and PTSD.

"I think professionals really should have been trained to see this and they should have taken a deeper look at him," said Arseneault.

The Canadian Forces did treat Powers, but both Arseneault and Bridger both say military doctors didn't do enough or take his case as seriously as they should have.

Arseneault and Bridger hope powers will receive the help he needs. And they worry if he doesn't, his story will end tragically, like so many other former soldiers suffering from PTSD.

"I believe that when he comes to the realization of what he's done, there's a 95 per cent chance that he will attempt suicide," says Bridger.

No one from the Department of National Defence or Department of Veterans Affairs was available to comment on Powers's case.

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