Man Bent On Revenge Kills 4, Hurts 23 -- Psychiatrist Is First Slain In Rampage At Fairchild Air Force Base
Seattle Times Staff: AP: Los Angeles Times
SPOKANE - A military psychiatrist who had recommended Dean Mellberg's discharge was the Michigan man's first target in yesterday's shooting spree that left five dead, including an 8-year-old girl and Mellberg, at Fairchild Air Force Base.
Twenty-three others were wounded in the rampage yesterday afternoon.
"He knew where he was going. He went directly to that (the psychiatrist's) office," said Spokane County Undersheriff John Goldman.
Air Force officials said the others who died in the shootings were:
-- Christine McCaren, 8, from the Spokane area, who was at the hospital because she was being baby-sat by the Moe family. Four members of the Moe family were wounded in the attack.
-- Anita Linder, 40 to 50 years old, also from the Spokane area, who was a patient at the hospital. She was fleeing the hospital annex building when she was shot, according to Fairchild Base Commander William Brooks.
-- Maj. Thomas Brigham, 31, a psychiatrist from Mobile, Ala., who had treated Mellberg. He was shot in an office in the hospital annex.
-- Capt. Alan London, 40, a psychologist, who also had treated Mellberg at Fairchild, was shot along with Brigham in the same room of the hospital annex.
Base commander Brooks declined to discuss a motive for the shootings. "I haven't the slightest idea why anyone would take the lives of innocent people," he said.
Mellberg and his former roommate at a dormitory on the base did
not get along, Brooks said. That former roommate brought forward information that led military officials to refer Mellberg for medical treatment. Whether those circumstances led to Mellberg's discharge wasn't available.
The gunman wore black jeans, a black T-shirt and tennis shoes and stowed a MAK-90 weapon in a large duffel bag for a taxi trip from a Spokane motel to the hospital, which is outside the base security area.
Mellberg, 20, killed Brigham and London, then walked through the hallway of the annex, opening each door and shooting, Goldman said.
He left the annex and went to the hospital, walking down the corridor shooting. He entered the cafeteria and fired more shots, Goldman said.
After the cafeteria, he went to the parking lot and focused on a woman fleeing the grounds. He was backing away, firing at the woman when a military police officer ordered him to drop the weapon. When Mellberg did not comply, the officer shot him, using a handgun, Goldman said.
The military police officer fired four rounds. At least two, possibly three hit the gunman. "One of the things we'll be looking at is if other rounds hit other victims," Goldman said.
Military officials declined to name the military policeman.
No witnesses described Mellburg saying anything to anyone during the rampage.
In excess of 50 rounds were fired during the spree, Brooks said.
"We found a lot of bullets and we're accounting for each and every one," Brooks said.
The shootings at the base hospital and annex, a three-story cement-block building, occurred while as many as 150 people were in the building, Goldman said.
The Mak-90 used by Mellberg was purchased in Spokane last Wednesday from a federally licensed firearms dealer, Michael Carroll, out of his home. When Mellberg bought the gun, he told Carroll he was buying it for target practice, Goldman said.
Sometime between then and Friday Mellberg was able to acquire a 70-round magazine to replace the three, five-shot magazines that came with the weapon. Authorities did not know where he bought the special magazine.
On Friday, a man believed to be Mellberg went to a sporting-good retailer in the Spokane area to find out how to operate the weapon and was shown how.
Everything Mellberg bought appears to have been obtained legally, Goldman said. Under the proposed federal crime bill, this weapon would have been banned.
Mellberg, who worked in aircraft maintenance while in the service, was discharged honorably in May, Brooks said. Mellburg entered the Air Force in June 1992 and later attended technical training at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. He came to Fairchild in April 1993. He was given psychiatric treatment at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for two months in 1993 and then returned to Fairchild.
Goldman said Mellberg was stationed at Fairchild as late as February, before being sent for a psychological evaluation at an Air Force base in New Mexico.
Soon after reports of gunfire, emergency vehicles were clustered along Graham Road near the base hospital. Wounded were taken to area hospitals by ambulance and helicopter.
At the base, a witness, Todd Boyle, said he heard gunshots and glanced out the window of his apartment to see a man clad all in black drop to the ground amid dust clouds raised by bullets striking the dirt near his feet.
"It was real crazy out there," said Boyle, a senior aircraft mechanic. "There was a lot of screaming and people were ducking behind cars. A medic dove into a Dumpster for cover."
Another witness, Rebecka Vanover, said, "I kept hearing these popping noises. They sounded almost like firecrackers but they were dull. It was really a madhouse . . . People were running all over the place. Kids were screaming. Sirens were going off. Police were breaking windows at the annex. I've never seen so many helicopters overhead." She lives in a base housing area across the street from the hospital.
Marlene Anderson, who manages Arnold's Motel, where Mellberg had been staying, said he was "a clean-cut, nice-looking young man.
"He was very soft-spoken, very, very polite," said Anderson.
She said Mellberg checked into the motel last Wednesday and left in a cab yesterday for Fairchild less than an hour before the shootings.
Anderson said she had no idea the young man who had rented a room from her was the gunman until police arrived asking for information.
She said Mellberg was so unremarkable, she couldn't even tell police what he looked like or what he was wearing when he left the motel.
Anderson said when Mellberg left yesterday he was carrying a large gym bag with a white Styrofoam box secured with black strapping tape.
Earlier, a maid cleaning Mellberg's room had found a large knife under his pillow. Anderson said it wasn't unusual for motel guest to have a weapon.
Anderson said she had only brief conversations with Mellberg and did not know why he picked Arnold's, other than it is inexpensive and draws military on their leaves.
Fairchild Air Force Base, 10 miles west of Spokane, had been a bomber base since World War II. But in May, the last of the B-52s at Fairchild moved elsewhere as the base began conversion to an air-refueling base.
Major Candace Balmer, public-affairs officer at Fairchild, said the hospital is considered part of the base but is not within the secure area and typically does not have military police stationed at the entrance.
The hospital is used extensively by retired military people in the area as well as by people employed by the base.
The hospital annex, which houses the base's psychiatric hospital, is about 1,000 yards from the closest base checkpoint. The hospital complex is bordered on two sides by base housing.
Late yesterday, Chaplain Luz Flores and nine other chaplains of various denominations were called into Deaconess Medical Center when victims of the Fairchild Air Force Base shooting spree started arriving.
As their families rushed into the emergency-room waiting area and were notified of the victims' condition, the chaplains stood by to provide whatever comfort they could.
One young boy, who was with his mother at the base when the shooting started and she was wounded, asked Flores to tell his mom he loved her. It was only one of many requests he couldn't grant as the young woman was in surgery.
"I tried to assure him that she was doing fine," Flores said. "When we have good information we bring it to them."
The woman was listed in stable condition last night.
Other family members asked Flores to explain what had happened and why, but he lacked answers, as did so many others in the aftermath.
The hospital cafeteria became the station for the families of the eight patients being treated at Deaconess.
There, Flores said the most visible emotion was shock. He and the other chaplains approached the relatives and tried to soothe them.
"We at least hope to be a calming presence," Flores said.
---------------- SHOOTING VICTIMS ----------------
Here is a list of those wounded in the shootings at Fairchild Air Force Base yesterday. Ages, medical conditions and civilian or military status were not available for all the injured:
-- Michelle Sigmon, 25, critical condition. Wife of an active-duty member.
-- Anthony Zucchetto, 4, critical condition. Son of active-duty member.
-- Janessa Zucchetto, 5, critical condition, daughter.
-- Samuel Spencer, 13, satisfactory condition, dependent son.
-- Alton Spencer, retired.
-- Laura Rogers, 25, satisfactory condition, active duty.
-- Dina Kelly, 37, satisfactory condition, dependent wife.
-- Hazel Roberts, 64, critical condition, retired.
-- Ruth Gerken, 71, wife, stable to serious condition.
-- Orson Lee, 64, satisfactory condition, retired.
-- Delwyn Baker, 42, serious condition, active duty.
-- John Urick, 69, stable condition, retired Navy.
-- Eva Walsh, 57, stable condition.
-- Melissa Moe, 15, serious condition, dependent daughter.
-- Joe Noone, medical group, staff sergeant.
-- Pauline Brown, 61, wife of an active-duty member, stable to fair.
-- Dennis Moe, 41, active duty, sergeant, very critical condition.
-- Kelly Moe, 15, dependent daughter, serious condition.
-- Marlene Moe, 40, serious condition, wife.
-- Lorraine Murray, wife.
-- Patrick Deaton, 35, active duty, satisfactory condition.
-- Mark Hess, 35, stable to serious condition.
-- Omer Karns, critical and unstable condition.
Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.