Did war vet kill self to make a statement?
Man had been in VA emergency room earlier in the morning.
By Lucas Sullivan and Margo Rutledge Kissell
Staff Writers Updated 11:23 PM Friday, April 16, 2010
DAYTON — Jesse Charles Huff walked up to the Veterans Affairs Department’s Medical Center on Friday morning wearing U.S. Army fatigues and battling pain from his Iraq war wounds and a recent bout with depression.
The 27-year-old Dayton man had entered the center’s emergency room about 1 a.m. Friday and requested some sort of treatment. But Huff did not get that treatment, police said, and about 5:45 a.m. he reappeared at the center’s entrance, put a military-style rifle to his head and twice pulled the trigger.
Huff fell near the foot of a Civil War statue, his blood covering portions of the front steps.
Police would not specify what treatment Huff sought and why he did not receive it. Medical Center spokeswoman Donna Simmons declined to answer questions about Huff’s treatment, citing privacy laws. But police believe Huff killed himself to make a statement.
Scott Labensky, whose son lived with Huff, agreed. He said the veteran was injured by a ground blast while serving in Iraq and received ongoing treatment for a back injury and depression.
“He never got adequate care from the VA he was trying to get,” Labensky said. “I believe he (killed himself) to bring attention to that fact. I saw him two days ago. He was really hurting.”
Simmons said Huff received care at the center since August 2008 and his care was being handled by a case manager.
The suicide rate among 18- to 29-year-old men who have left the military has gone up significantly, the government said in January.
The rate for those veterans rose 26 percent from 2005 to 2007, according to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The military community also has struggled with an increase in suicides, with the Army seeing a record number last year. Last May, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base focused on suicide recognition and prevention after four apparent suicides involving base personnel within six months.
Huff arrived early Friday in a cream-colored van police found parked about 200 yards from a south entrance of the medical center. The van contained some U.S. Army clothing, a carton of Newport cigarettes and a prescription bottle of Oxycodone with Huff’s name on the side.
Oxycodone is often used to treat severe pain.
As a precaution, bomb squad technicians blew apart a backpack Huff carried before committing suicide.