On 20 June 1994 a mass murder occurred at the Fairchild Air Force Base, Hospital near Spokane Washington. Dean Allen Mellberg, the killer, had mental health issues since birth.
He never learned how to fit in at school, he did not have friends, nor did he date. He joined the US Air Force in 1992.
At Lackland AFB for basic training his Military Training Instructor identified him as a problem and sent him to the Mental Health facility where it was quickly determined he was not military material. The Commander of the Basic Training squadron disregarded the Mental Health professionals and the Training Instructor’s recommendations. She kept Mellberg in the Air Force. This was the first of many missed opportunities that permitted the seeds of psychopathy to germinate.
Mellberg graduated basic training and went on to Lowry AFB in Colorado, where he learned his trade as an equipment calibration specialist. The school was long, and he went through several roommates, all of them complained of odd behavior. Most prevalently, he openly masturbated in the room, in front of them and their girlfriends. He threatened to kill one of his roommates, telling him he better not to go to sleep, he was going to douse him with lighter fluid and set him on fire.
He was often seen sitting by himself laughing out loud. At other times he quietly stared at the walls, motionless for extended periods of time. His instructors at Lowry AFB referred him to Mental Health on at least two occasions. Mental Health professionals again recommended discharge. School officials overruled the instructors and the medical staff, keeping Mellberg in the school and in the Air Force because his grades were good.
In April 1993 Mellberg graduated and reported to his first duty station, Fairchild AFB, Washington. He was assigned to the 92nd Maintenance Squadron and shared a room with another new Airman from the same Squadron. His roommate found him to be oddly quiet, and difficult to get to know. When he asked him where he was from Mellberg said, “I need to get to know people better before I answer questions like that.” That was just the beginning; Mellberg started masturbating in front of his roommate and his girlfriend. When he refused to stop this behavior the roommate went to their First Sergeant for help. Mellberg was referred to Fairchild's base Psychologist and Psychiatrist. They immediately saw trouble in Mellberg and recommended to the Maintenance Squadron Commander that he be discharged.
The Commander wanted to give Mellberg a chance to earn the money the Air Force had just spent training him so he ignored the warnings and let Mellberg stay in the Air Force, after all he was doing “ok” at work.
Mellberg was outraged that his roommate took the masturbation complaint up the chain of command. He could not let it go and obsessed about the complaint being in his permanent record even though he was repeatedly told there would be not punishment regarding the issue. He called the situation a crime against humanity, and he believed it.
The Mental Health staff met with Mellberg one more time to resolve their conflict but Mellberg just became more agitated and his feelings of persecution grew. The Doctors decided Mellberg needed to be seen at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, in Texas. They were equipped with an in-patient Psychiatric Ward and could give Mellberg the help he needed. Over the next three months he was diagnosed with several disqualifying mental health issues. Through the interfering pressure of his controlling mother and a young Michigan Congressman, Mellberg was again allowed to stay in the Air Force and was shipped from Texas to his new base, Cannon AFB, New Mexico.
He lasted four months at Cannon before being kicked out for a personality disorder. It happened so fast he did not have time to fight it. He was in shock and kept asking his Commander if she alone had the power to discharge him. He refused a plane ticket home, instead opting for the cash value. He withdrew his savings of $6000 and headed off on a journey that eventually led him back to Spokane Washington.
He stayed in a small Spokane motel while he plotted his revenge. On 15 June 1994 he bought a MAK-90 rifle. On 16 June he bought 80 rounds of 7.62 and a 75 round drum clip. He spent part of the 19th and early into the 20th of June, at Déjà vu, a well known Spokane strip club. In two days, he spent over $3000, most of it on one particular girl.
On the afternoon of June 20th, he overslept and was chastised by the motel manager. She made him pay for an additional night, but he would not need it. He called a cab which picked him up outside the Motel and drove him to the base Hospital. He arrived there just before 3:00 pm. In a few minutes he would be dead. Still he took the time, several minutes in fact, counting out the $43.84 for the cab fare. He tipped the cabbie 16 cents and stuffed his last $106.00 into the pocket of his dirty black jeans.
Mellberg entered the Hospital with his rifle. He found the two doctors who he blamed for his discharge and the ruination of his career. He killed them first and went on through the hospital shooting at men, women and children, military and civilian.
Mellberg chased people outside and ended up on the road adjacent the hospital.
I was on bike patrol in the area and heard the call of a man with a gun at the hospital. I rode south and he was walking north on Graham road. I observed him on Graham road firing the rifle, and ordered him to drop the weapon. Mellberg did not obey the command and fired in my direction. I returned fire, shooting four times, hitting the killer twice from a distance of approximately 70 yards, with a 9mm Beretta handgun. The lifesaving shot hit Mellberg on the bridge of his nose, passing fatally through his brain as it exited the base of his skull.
In a few minutes he had killed five and wounded twenty-two.
Those who were not physically wounded have long suffered the scars of mental trauma.
Years later, the people of the Fairchild Hospital shooting still struggle with the aftermath. The memories have not faded, the anxiety is still there. They can find strength in the fact that moments after the gunfire ended, they were no longer victims.
They are Survivors.