Western Psych assailant Shick had stay in mental facility
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Three years before his deadly rampage at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 30-year-old John Shick's behavior was worrisome enough to prompt a judge in Portland, Ore., to commit him to a psychiatric facility following his arrest for kicking a police officer in the head.
On Monday, investigators said they had yet to determine whether Mr. Shick, who was killed by police after fatally shooting a man and wounding seven others Thursday, was ever a patient at Western Psych. UPMC, citing privacy laws, declined to discuss the matter.
Karl Williams, the Allegheny County medical examiner, said his office was still investigating and may subpoena UPMC for medical records.
City homicide detectives who searched Mr. Shick's North Oakland apartment were investigating whether he had a history of mental illness and whether it motivated the shooting.
Neighbors in Mr. Shick's apartment building said he behaved bizarrely and last fall was banned from Duquesne University, where he was in a biology graduate program, for reportedly harassing female students.
Police in Portland, where Mr. Shick resided before coming to Pittsburgh, had a run-in with him in 2009. According to Oregon court records, Mr. Shick petitioned in April of 2009 to change his name to Willim Hahnpere Schols'kan, although his new last name appeared as Scolskan in other paperwork.
According to an arrest report from the Port of Portland police, on Dec. 29 of that year, someone reported Mr. Shick, then known as Mr. Scolskan, to authorities because he was seen "exhibiting strange behavior" on the Commercial Roadway at Portland International Airport. Three officers responded and told him to show his hands. He refused and when officers approached him, he pulled a large flashlight from a bag strapped around his neck and tried to hit one of the officers with it. As they wrestled him into cuffs, he kicked another officer in the head.
An officer zapped him with a stun gun, but it "had no affect," the report said. Mr. Shick was charged with attempted assault and assault on a peace officer, both felonies. He also was charged with misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct and two counts of resisting arrest. Police banned him from the airport for 90 days. Following his arrest, he was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation.
Robert Leineweber, the Multnomah County deputy district attorney assigned to the case, said police then petitioned a court to have Mr. Shick committed, with the arresting officer testifying at the hearing. A judge ordered him into psychiatric treatment for up to 180 days, but it's unclear how long he remained in treatment.
Mr. Leineweber said when he learned of the commitment, he called the arresting officer to see how they should proceed with charges. He said he never heard back from the officer and Mr. Shick was never prosecuted.
Mr. Shick petitioned to have his name changed back to John Frederick Shick in May 2010.
Authorities collected several items from Mr. Shick's North Oakland apartment since the shooting, including many handwritten notes, doctors bills, a computer, cell phones bearing text messages, a 30-pound bag of unspecified prescription medication and other items that they continue to study. The medical examiner's office said police also recovered a New York driver's license, which is how they confirmed Mr. Shick's identity.
Mr. Shick's parents were not reached until Sunday morning, when they contacted the medical examiner's office from a satellite phone in the Bahamas. Susan and Larry Shick had been sailing in the Caribbean and did not indicate whether they would come to Pittsburgh to claim their son's body, said Rick Lorah, a supervisor in the medical examiner's office.
His body was sent to the Pittsburgh School of Mortuary Science, where he was embalmed and returned to the medical examiner's office Sunday.
First Published March 13, 2012 12:00 am