Head wounds

Steven Ing

Steven Ing

Photo/D. Brian burghart

In some weird parallel universe, there’s a Venn diagram waiting to be made. In it, you’d have three circles: psychologists, people who work with police, and family members of people killed by police.

In that dark spot where all the circles overlap—family members of people killed by police who work with police—there would be one name: Steven Ing of Reno.

Ing is a marriage and family therapist, who, almost as a primary job, works with sex offenders who for one reason or another are involved in the Nevada prison system. He believes they can be rehabilitated, an unorthodox view. But maybe growing up as the child of a notorious Reno thug, Jimmy Ing, you’d have to believe anyone can be rehabilitated—at least until they are killed by police.

Ing would certainly have a unique perspective on the effects on families of people killed by law enforcement. He’s singular in many ways. He’s a financial success after a childhood where he’d lie in bed, screaming with a pillow over his head while his father beat his mother. His father was bad, bad. He was reputed to have beaten a man almost to death and then finishing the job by putting him in a metal barrel, pouring oil over him and setting him on fire.

Ing said that he didn’t even begin processing the 1966 or ’67 police “execution” until he was 19. According to the cuddly Mustang Ranch brothel owner Joe Conforte, writing in his book, Breaks, Brains & Balls, law enforcement set Jimmy Ing up at a West Fourth Street motel. “There must have been at least 20 cops waiting with shotguns. As soon as Jimmy comes out, ’Freeze!’ They didn’t even wait two seconds. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. He had 22 bullet holes in him.”

“We had a boarder living with us at that time, and she said, ’You need to take care of your mom,’” reminisced the 60-could-pass-for-50 psychologist Ing. “And I just switched channels from any kind of processing to taking care of my mom, which was the beginning of a lifelong pattern of co-dependent, rescuing women—damsels in distress—and resulting in my first marriage.

“I’m able to trust Sharon [his wife] today, but when I was 20, the irrational thought in my head, the belief was, ’I’m all I’ve got to count on,’ because there’s some dramatic shift in a guy’s thinking [when cops kill his father]. I was raised in that school generation where they always talked about Officer Friendly and how you could trust the police and all of that, and they have the good guys beat the bad guys. [The killing is] a total flip flop of your paradigm, and I remember when I was in my teens, I think I was 18, a high school teacher was under investigation, and the DA asked me to come by his office to be interviewed because I knew something about it, and I took a friend because I wasn’t sure I was going to live. That’s how it affected me. I really had this irrational fear of death because the police had killed my dad and it was this sense of ’Well, then, nowhere is safe because if you can’t trust the police then really, nothing is real.’”

Ing says that maturity is usually a function of time and experience, but acting quiet and controlled doesn’t ensure maturity. He said that at 12 or 13 he felt “super mature,” but at 30, he realized he was no more mature than when he was 13. So the psychological effects of his father’s killing included stunted emotional growth, paranoia, dysfunctional marital choices, inability to trust others, and difficulty in forming cooperative partnerships with people for any reason.

“I’m not going to say every bad thing in my life is a result of my father’s getting shot, but it is true I believe that everything in my life is related to every other thing, and most all of these bad things do have some sort of root in my father’s death and the way he died,” Ing said. “Janet Reno said that domestic violence is the root of all crime in America, and I think it really makes sense because there’s that complete and utter violation of boundaries with the people who supposedly you love and care for the most, and if I love and care for my family, and I can hit them, why would I not hit somebody else, right?

“And the police killing your dad is a similar sort of violation of those boundaries. I have the honor of working with a lot of law enforcement today, and I really admire and respect those guys who do what they do, but I am also very aware of how human they are and that they too have their issues.”