On 20 June 1994, a man opened fire in a hospital on Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. The shooting was closely followed by the fatal crash of a Fairchild B-52 Bomber.

Both tragedies had been foreseen.

The gunman was a former airman who had been referred for mental health evaluations at every stage of his military career and spent three months in the psychiatric ward of a military hospital. Numerous mental health professionals recommended he be discharged from the military and be placed under the care of civilian mental health care providers. Those recommendations were ignored and dismissed. By the time of his discharge from the Air Force he had fixated on a psychologist and psychiatrist at Fairchild’s hospital and blamed them for ruining his career. Armed with a rifle, he took revenge on a hospital full of men, women and children. The heroic actions of the patrons and staff of the hospital saved countless lives although few managed to escape the effects of mental trauma.

I was a Security Policeman and was the first patrolman to reach the scene. I confronted the shooter outside of the hospital and engaged him with my Beretta M9. I prevailed in the gunfight because I had prepared for a lethal force encounter, but I wasn’t prepared for the traumatic aftermath.

Four days after the shooting a pilot, who many airmen had refused to fly with, crashed a B-52 while practicing for an air show.

The events that led to the shooting and the crash share a common theme. The behavior of the pilot and the gunman led people to warn their superiors of impending tragedy. Tragically those warnings went unheeded. The more we learn from our history the less likely we are to repeat it. But, until we are able to prevent these tragedies, we as responsible citizens and police must be prepared to intervene. Learn from history, remain vigilant and trust your intuition.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe.

– Andy Brown

20 June 1994, FAFB Law Enforcement Radio and Telephone