Moorhead rest stop stabber considered bipolar
MOORHEAD - Harmit Bhangu's first psychotic episode happened Jan. 11 when he nearly stabbed a man to death at a Moorhead rest stop after seeing what he thought was a 7-foot-6-inch man who was trying to kill him.
A psychologist testified Monday that Bhangu is only the second case he has ever seen with such an aggressive outburst from a man who was law-abiding and never before suffered from such hallucinations.
Bhangu, 32, has previously been found incompetent to stand trial for stabbing the Montana truck driver eight to 10 times and assaulting a police officer after being arrested.
Clay County District Court Judge Galen Vaa ruled Monday that Bhangu is mentally ill and dangerous, suffering from bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and committed him to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter for an indeterminate period of time.
Two psychologists testified that Bhangu heard God order him to kill Dale Morigeau, but also believed he was acting in self-defense.
Dr. Paul Reitman testified Monday that Bhangu was "rather flippant" about the assault and said he thought Morigeau was "going to kill him."
"He's delusional and paranoid," Reitman said of the Canadian man, adding Bhangu suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations and is grossly impaired. Both Reitman and Dr. Rosemary Linderman, who also examined Bhangu, agreed that Bhangu must identify that he has a mental illness, which he has not done.
"He still doesn't demonstrate a clear ability to distinguish his distortion of reality," Linderman said. She added that Bhangu sees people as potentially good or evil and he told her his heart tells him to defend himself. Both psychologists said Bhangu could still pose a threat to others if not properly medicated. They also voiced concern that he indicated he does not need his medication and would not take it if released.
"It's absolutely essential in his case," Reitman said. "The only way we know to keep him stabilized is forced medication."
Reitman said he believes Bhangu has a chance to be treated and successfully recover in as little as six months, but more likely in 24 to 36 months.
"If he is, and he will be, released to the community, he needs intensive supervision," Reitman said.
The criminal case against Bhangu is on hold due to his mental illness. If at some point doctors feel that he has the capacity to understand what is going on, prosecutors can proceed with the criminal case within the next three years.
A review hearing in the case will be held in 60 days, but the commitment could be for life. Defense attorney Shawn Schmidt voiced concern Monday that indeterminate commitment could result in a much longer sentence than Bhangu faced if convicted of second-degree attempted murder.
Such a charge carries up to 20 years in prison, but Bhangu has no criminal history and would likely receive a shorter sentence, Schmidt said.