A suicidal Army Ranger grew increasingly violent in the months before he broke into the home of a former lover -- his cousin's wife -- and tussled with police officers who fatally shot him before he died early Tuesday.
Sgt. Robert Brooks wrote in text messages and emails over the last seven months that he wanted to kill Chad and Sarah Brooks, who for a time served as his guardians. He threatened to kill police and said he wanted to die -- either in combat or in a shootout with police.
And in Fort Indiantown Gap, where he was training to become a medic with the Pennsylvania National Guard, police responded to incidents involving him.
Court records show that a military attorney told police in Sewickley a week-and-a-half ago that the sergeant "was described as a powder keg waiting to go off" and "we should not take Brooks lightly" because "he has extensive combat and survival training."
Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said police traced the story of Sgt. Brooks back to 2002, when he moved from a small town near Winchester, Okla., to the home of Mr. and Ms. Brooks.
The teenager stayed with the couple and their children while he attended Pittsburgh Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill and then Avonworth High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, receiving training as a ranger and a medic and serving on active duty from March 2006 through July 2011. Army records show he deployed three times to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, receiving medals for service and good conduct.
When he finished his first round of service, he moved to Mr. and Ms. Brooks' home on Thorn Street in Sewickley and a complicated web of relationships began to evolve.
Mr. Brooks, 44, told police that Sgt. Brooks' presence "caused marital issues between" him and his wife, according to a criminal complaint. Police said Mr. Brooks moved out of the home in November 2012, leaving Ms. Brooks, 42, and Sgt. Brooks, 27, to live there. Chad and Sarah Brooks are separated and in the process of finalizing a divorce.
Sgt. Brooks began to threaten his cousin, who filed a protection-from-abuse order against him earlier this year saying Sgt. Brooks sent him an email saying he had been in touch with people he met as a Ranger and "I will pursue justice through your demise."
Police confiscated an assault rifle and a semiautomatic handgun from Sgt. Brooks as a result of the PFA.
Sgt. Brooks later focused his anger on Ms. Brooks, abusing her both physically and verbally and saying he wanted to die either in combat or by being shot by police, Superintendent Moffatt said. Last month, Mr. and Ms. Brooks shared with Sewickley police threatening text messages and emails they'd received from Sgt. Brooks.
Police said Sgt. Brooks alternated between telling Ms. Brooks he loved her and then threatened to kill her and her husband. Ms. Brooks obtained a protection-from-abuse order against the sergeant, checking a box on the form that described him as a "current or former sexual or intimate partner."
On June 27, Sewickley police obtained a warrant charging Sgt. Brooks with making terroristic threats and violating the PFA against him.
Sewickley police discovered that Sgt. Brooks was being held in the Lebanon County Jail in connection with an assault. They said a military attorney in Fort Indiantown Gap warned them not to take Sgt. Brooks' threats lightly.
Sgt. Brooks was transported to the Allegheny County Jail and was arraigned July 2 on the terroristic threats charge. He was released from jail on Saturday after posting $500 bail.
Police said the next incident occurred the following Monday, when Ms. Brooks awoke about 3 a.m. and found Sgt. Brooks in her home, standing on some steps. Superintendent Moffatt said Ms. Brooks spoke with Sgt. Brooks for about an hour before she persuaded him to go for a walk outside. When she tried to run, he tackled her and beat her.
Police said the two went inside and talked until Ms. Brooks again persuaded him to take a walk outside. She tried to run and he tackled her again, but a passing driver spotted them, called for help and honked his horn and flashed his lights. Sgt. Brooks ran away.
"I think in our opinion he saved her life," Superintendent Moffatt said.
Police arrived on the scene and took Ms. Brooks to reset her house alarm and then to a hotel for her safety. Hours later, about 9:30 p.m., she was alerted by her alarm company that someone had broken in to her home.
Police responded and found Sgt. Brooks in a bed elevated about 7 feet in the air. They didn't know if he was armed and used a Taser on him when he refused to come down.
Officers said Sgt. Brooks pulled out the Taser barbs and struggled with an officer who had a rifle strapped across his back and the gun at times pointed at police. By this time, five or six officers from Allegheny County and Sewickley were in the room.
Several fired shots and at least four hit Sgt. Brooks -- two in the torso and two grazing him. Superintendent Moffatt said it is not yet clear which officer fired the fatal shot. The officers have been placed on paid leave during the investigation, which is standard procedure.
Ms. Brooks declined to comment. Mr. Brooks said: "We're extremely grateful for the police and the fact that none of them are hurt." He declined Tuesday to talk about Monday's incident or about the family dynamics, saying he wanted some privacy.
"I think it's all out there and it is what it is," he said. "It's unfortunate and I'm just glad it's at its end and no one else got hurt."
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438. or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published July 9, 2013 11:45 AM