Just days after reports of a "mystery man" giving away money to strangers across Halifax, Nova Scotia, the unnamed man quickly became seen as a folk hero to many city residents. Dressed in patched pants and wearing a wool jacket, the man handed out $100 and $50 bills to people chosen at random. He also handed out silver coins purchased at coin shops across the city. After saying that he lived in the woods, hetold the ones benefitting from his generosity to "Thank God" or else to "take back the wealth." A series of stories published about him in local newspapers quoted elated recipients describing his actions as a “blessing,” “doing the world good” or proof of “a few good people left in the world.”
It was only when the mystery man returned to his hometown of Charlottetown, P.E.I. that the people of Halifax learned his name - and that he had been detained by police pending a psychiatric evaluation. Richard Wright was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward of Charlottetown’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital even though psychiatrists in Dartmouth had already cleared him of any mental health concerrns. Despite this, he was detained in P.E.I. within hours of his return due to his "suspicious generosity."
As Wright's teenaged daughter, Chelsey, wrote in a Facebook post, "“They think he is sick and has mental issues … but I know he does not." As for her her father's actions, "he had some extra money so he decided to share it around with some homeless and needy people in Halifax and Dartmouth.” According to a spokesperson from the P.E.I. R.C.M.P., Wright was detained due to a request from an unnamed source that a "wellness check" be conducted on him. News of Wright's hospitalization led to swift criticism from many of his fans. A Facebook group titled "OpFreeRichardWright" quickly gathered more than 1,600 supporters and phone lines at Queen Elizabeth Hospital had been reportedly jammed by callers depamding his release.
Friends and family of Richard Wright told news media that he has no history of mental illness while his daughter Chelsey reported that he was being held under anti-suicide conditions, including constant surveillance. Though hospital sources remain close-mouthed about Wright''s status and his current treatment, the Facebook page stayed active with updates from Wright concerning his seeking legal counsel. "Considering that the findings of this hearing are final and their intentions are to force medicate me and destroy my family and life I have opted to proceed cautiously", he wrote in one statement. "Some of my thoughts include obtaining my own legal representation, not one appointed by the province, as well as the possibility of obtaining an independent psychiatric evaluation. It is my thought that since the Hospital Appeal Board is comprised of two lawyers, two psychiatrists and one “independent” it is highly unlikely that a lawyer alone could present my case fairly since their profession is the law, not mental health."
After a petition for his release on Change.org gathered more than 1,000 signatures, Richard Wright has since ben freed with no conditions and reunited with his family. How this saga will eventually end remains to be seen. The "Free Richard Wright" Facebook group is still active.