BENNINGTON -- An increase in medication and whirlwind of emotions that came to a head the morning of Dec. 31 led to a very public hypomanic episode, according to Steven Davis, whose recent Internet posts both captivated and alarmed the community.
Hypomania, according to Harvard Medical School, is "usually described as a mood state or energy level that is elevated above normal, but not so extreme as to cause impairment."
Davis, who later that day was admitted to the hospital and later transferred to a psychiatric care facility, was released Jan. 22 after mental health evaluators determined he is not a safety risk and is in good mental health.
Significant safety concerns were raised in the community when news that a AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and two 30-round, high-capacity magazines were surrendered by the Mount Anthony Union High School teacher in the midst of an apparent breakdown. The events initiated additional safety precautions at area schools, where no trespass orders were filed against Davis.
Davis said he was able to reflect on his Internet posts criticizing co-workers, the teachers union, administrators and other topics during his three weeks in the state's mental health system. Davis said he never had any intent, nor had it crossed his mind, to turn the gun on any person, however, he understands the reaction from the community.
"By connecting all the dots and putting the AR-15 in my possession, 100 percent it was crystal clear to me very shortly afterward, not even [after] a 24-hour period, exactly how it looked," Davis said. "I take full responsibility for the frightening nature of those videos. I ask that, at least the consideration for my forgiveness one day can be made for the fear and harm and other things I may have caused this community, and especially my students and their families and my own family."
The incident on Dec. 31 took place just two weeks after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 26 people -- including 20 children -- were gunned down in a school by a man with the same model Bushmaster AR-15 rifle Davis owned.
The events began on a public platform the evening of Dec. 30 when police were called to Davis' home to do a welfare check after a neighbor spotted Davis carrying the rifle to his vehicle. Shortly before that, Davis said, for personal reasons, he made the decision to rent a storage unit to store his belongings as he left his home, at least on a temporary basis.
"Upon loading everything into my car, the last thing to load was my AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that I had purchased in 2009," Davis said.
Davis said he kept the gun a secret from his wife so as not to upset her and kept it stored in a case with a trigger lock in the basement.
On the evening of Dec. 30, his wife and children stayed with family, and the following morning, Davis was served a temporary relief from abuse order filed by his wife.
In addition to the rash of emotion, Davis said the psychiatric evaluation he underwent determined the hypomanic episode was "brought on, most likely, by over medication."
Last spring Davis said he was prescribed antidepressants Zoloft and Wellbutrin, but Davis said he still was not feeling right so he was later prescribed methylphenidate, a drug to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"By October, I was taking all three medications with the full dose of each," he said.
When Davis began posting to social media, it quickly caught the attention of friends, neighbors and others in the community. The messages and videos were uploaded to his own Facebook page, his YouTube channel, to Twitter, as well as to other websites including the Bennington Banner's Facebook page.
None of the comments Davis made were direct threats so he was not charged with a crime.
Phone calls to the Bennington Police Department began pouring in shortly after the first couple videos were posted. After viewing the videos himself, Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette asked Davis to come to the police station to talk.
During that conversation, Doucette said he became concerned with some of the statements Davis was making and asked Davis to undergo a mental health evaluation. Davis voluntarily went to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center to be evaluated, but said when he refused a blood sample the decision was made to hold him involuntarily. Davis said he was kept at SVMC five days before being transferred to Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center in Morrisville, where he stayed until Jan. 22.
"I left the institution with a clear bill of health," he said. "They would not have let me out if they felt I was dangerous. I'm not dangerous."
Since being released, Davis has lived out of a hotel in Troy, N.Y. However, he was charged with trespassing and violating the abuse prevention order Monday for allegedly entering the house he and his wife share. Davis pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on condition he abide by a 24-7 curfew at the hotel. For the remainder of the school year, Davis is on medical leave from the position he has held the past nine years teaching science and math -- which he requested prior to the Dec. 31 episode.
Editor's note: Staff Writer Dawson Raspuzzi was contracted by Steven Davis to write a single freelance piece prior to writing any stories about him for New England Newspapers.