DEDHAM — When Wellesley police patted down Ian Beagan, they felt Army dog tags under his dress shirt and sweater. When they checked him for identifying marks at booking, they found the numbers 8-3-1-1 tattooed across his right knuckles.
The tags and the inked digits — the date Beagan’s friends were blown up, according to his father — hinted at the burden he has carried in the four years since he returned from Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the 25-year-old community college student was arrested for allegedly pointing a loaded gun at another motorist on Route 9, in an incident police said was “road rage.” In court Friday, Beagan’s lawyer called the episode a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, and a judge postponed Beagan’s arraignment so he could seek evaluation and treatment.
Beagan told police he had been a combat medic and hinted at an experience his father detailed to the Globe in an interview. On Aug. 3, 2011, the truck Beagan usually rode in was carrying five soldiers when it struck a hidden improvised explosive device on a bridge in the Nerkh District, his father said. Two died instantly; two others were badly wounded. Beagan was not on board, but he responded quickly to the scene, treating the wounded.
“Some soldiers have survivor’s guilt,” said his father, Michael Beagan. On top of that, “medics feel it’s their duty to keep their unit safe — that even if they weren’t there, somehow it’s their fault, and Ian has tremendous guilt that his buddies died.”
Beagan’s parents had a no-gun policy in their Needham home, opposed the Iraq war, and had mixed feelings about Afghanistan. They were stunned when Beagan enlisted in 2010, requesting to become a medic.
“It’s about the guy next to me,” Beagan’s father remembered him saying. “I feel like I should do my share to protect those guys.”
By the time Ian Beagan returned to Massachusetts in 2012, he seemed consumed by combat memories, his father said, though he did not talk about it.
Beagan’s parents persuaded him to seek support from a Veterans Health Administration overwhelmed by backlogs. A therapist diagnosed Beagan with PTSD in 2013. But he often had to wait weeks between appointments, and his disability benefits took a year to kick in, his father said.
Taking matters into their own hands, Beagan’s parents found a private therapist and their son began twice-weekly appointments, Michael Beagan said. In the summer of 2013, Michael and Ian Beagan traveled to Haiti on a medical mission with a group from Needham’s Christ Episcopal Church. Beagan enrolled in community college classes, determined to work in health care and help amputee veterans.
Beagan’s parents changed insurers at the end of 2015, but the therapist did not accept their new coverage. His parents offered to pay out of pocket, but Beagan waved them off. For seven weeks, they held their breath, while encouraging him to restart treatment.
They knew he kept guns, even if it mystified them that he had been able to get a permit with his PTSD diagnosis. They knew, too, that he was self-medicating, that he struggled to sleep, and that he experienced “hypervigilance,” his father said.
“They spend a year with people trying to shoot at them, and they come back here and it’s like landing on a different planet,” he said. “They still have a sense that they have to protect themselves.”
On Thursday afternoon, Beagan called his parents from Wellesley, where he was under arrest, his father said. When driving his Toyota Camry, Beagan kept a loaded Glock 23 — a .40-caliber handgun engraved with an American flag — in the center console, according to police. He admitted that “he [messed] up and brandished his gun” at a driver who had repeatedly encroached on him at around 11 a.m., police wrote.
The other driver, a 48-year-old Canton man who sought help from an officer working a construction detail, told police he had simply applied his brakes ahead of a lane closure before a honking Beagan swerved beside him, flashed a middle finger, then raised a gun, pointing it upward and then toward the other driver, police wrote. Beagan told police he only pointed it in the air.
The man “stated that he was scared,” and police described him as “obviously shaken up.” They tracked Beagan’s car to Massachusetts Bay Community College and found him in a science class.
He cooperated with officers and directed them to his locked car for the gun, allowing them to search and take it without a warrant, according to the police report. He spent the night in lockup, charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and bringing a gun to school property.
In Dedham District Court Friday, Beagan stood silently in the dock as defense lawyer William Lenahan asked for time to check his client into a VA hospital “to stabilize his mental health.” Norfolk Assistant District Attorney Christopher Meade objected, citing “a very disturbing set of road-rage facts.”
Judge James McGuinness overruled the prosecutor, postponing the arraignment to March 11, while ordering Beagan to surrender his guns.
As the Beagans prepared to take their son to the hospital, their lawyer suggested his arrest might be a blessing in disguise. “Hopefully,” Lenahan told reporters outside the courthouse, “we will be able to get him some help.”
Eric Moskowitz can be reached at email@example.com.