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KARE 11 Investigates: An accused sexual predator, a decade of safety net failures

Part 5 – “The Gap: Failure to Treat, Failure to Protect” – Too mentally ill to be tried for rape, DHS and the courts said he’s safe to live on the streets.

Brandon Stahl (KARE11), A.J. Lagoe, Steve Eckert

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Published: 3:42 PM CDT November 4, 2021
Updated: 9:06 AM CDT November 5, 2021

At 18-years-old, Omar Isse was already so mentally ill and likely to cause harm that a Hennepin County judge ordered him committed to the Department of Human Services for treatment in 2009.

It didn’t work.

Over the next 11 years, Isse cycled from the streets to a seemingly endless array of commitments, hospitals, group homes, jails, and back to the streets, as his potential to cause harm was sadly realized.

He faced an assault charge in 2013 for stabbing a man with a box cutter; an aggravated robbery charge in 2017 where the victim says Isse tried to kidnap her. He was charged in 2020 for allegedly raping a woman in public, then in September charged with attempting to rape a staff member at a group home.

A judge released him again, and he went missing, only to be found after KARE 11 reported on his whereabouts

His story may not end there.

Though Isse is back in jail, if his decade-long pattern continues, the courts and DHS will release him, where he’ll go through the same cycle of group homes, arrests and jail, and still fail to get the help he needs.

“It’s like a ticking time bomb,” said his longtime attorney, Mark Gray. “We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens.”

A closer look at Isse’s case history reveals systemic flaws, loopholes and outright failures in the state’s criminal justice and mental health safety nets to adequately treat his mental illness and protect the public, a KARE 11 investigation has found.

Isse is among thousands of other criminal suspects known in Minnesota as gap cases, mentally ill and found incompetent to stand trial, but then released back into the community without appropriate supervision or treatment.

KARE 11 has already exposed gap cases where mentally ill and incompetent suspects have gone on to commit brutal assaults, rapes and murders

Some state legislators have pledged reform, but cases like Isse’s make clear that change is urgent, said Rep. Tony Albright. “There are going to continue to be tragic events,” he said.

As the Republican lead of the House Human Services Finance and Policy committee, Albright has reviewed Isse’s case and others. “Families will be devastated and lives ruined,” he said.

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