Mentally ill veteran who made headlines in 2014 police standoff has died

Chris Gerace in Baghdad, Iraq in 2009. Courtesy photo

The New Jersey military vet who was involved in an intense standoff with Atlantic City police back in 2014 — has died. The family of Chris Gerace confirmed his death on Tuesday, but did not release any more details.

Gerace became a Marine at 17 and after more than five years, he left to start a family. Civilian life didn’t really work out for him though. He told the Press of Atlantic City during a 2015 interview: “When you’re trained for the infantry, all you really know how to do is the meat and potatoes of war.”

At 24, he went back to the military– this time he joined the Army. He was deployed to Baghdad in 2008 and 2009, where he worked security detail and oversaw a group of 15 men, the Press reported.

Chris Gerace in Baghdad, Iraq in 2009. Courtesy photo
Chris Gerace in Baghdad, Iraq in 2009. Courtesy photo

Just a few years later though, problems arose for Gerace.  He went AWOL twice around 2011 and after an incident involving “pointing his rifle” he was sentenced to 6 months in a military jail. After 15 years in the military, he was discharged.

His marriage had fallen apart and with his military career now over, Gerace said he turned to drugs.

“You know you’re not the same,” he said after his time overseas. “Right and wrong just don’t exist anymore.”

In the summer of 2014, he barricaded himself in his parents’ Chelsea Heights home and was involved in a standoff with Atlantic City police. Members of the SWAT Team and bomb squad surrounded the home after Gerace called his mother in Florida saying he wanted to die. He jumped over the fence and stripped down, he said. He told reporters later that he was going to kill the “first guy through the door.”

No one was hurt in the incident, but Gerace was indicted on six criminal charges.

16 months later, he told the Press that he was getting help from Jewish Family Services, which administers Atlantic County’s Veterans Justice Involved Services.  VJIS is a program to help veterans whose mental health issues may have gotten them in trouble with the law.

Gerace said in the November 2015 interview that he had nothing against the police that he grew up with them, they were all family and friends. He said, “There’s gotta be somebody you can trust…that cares about you.”

“The people that care about people with problems really need to step it up…they found me, thank God. It just happened to be the whole Atlantic City Police Dept.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, substance abuse is the most common disorder among veterans. Behind drug abuse are PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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