Suspected VA shooter's bail set at $1 million

Victim ‘doing well’; he had sought restraining order against woman

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: February 6, 2014, 4:30 PM

 

With cuts and bruises on her face, the woman suspected of shooting her former supervisor Tuesday on the U.S. Veterans Affairs campus in Vancouver appeared Thursday morning before a Clark County judge, who held her on $1 million bail.

Deborah A. Lennon, a former Veterans Affairs employee, appeared in Clark County Superior Court on several charges, including first-degree attempted murder, stalking, cyberstalking and first-degree assault.

Judge Robert Lewis appointed Vancouver attorney Steven Rucker to defend Lennon and set her arraignment for 9 a.m. Feb. 20.

The victim, Allen Bricker, 45, sought a protection order against Lennon in January 2013, alleging that she was stalking him with daily emails, according to court documents obtained by The Columbian.

Lennon, 46, of Portland walked into Bricker’s fourth-floor office about 4 p.m. Tuesday, pulled out a handgun and shot Bricker twice in the chest, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a court affidavit, the day of the shooting wasn’t the first time Lennon tried to contact Bricker at the office recently.

After living in Arizona for 15 months, Lennon showed up at Bricker’s office a couple of weeks ago. She was escorted off the property, and employees installed locks on the back door of the office to prevent Lennon from sneaking in, court records show.

According to the court records, when Lennon returned to the office on Tuesday, Bricker yelled, “She’s got a gun!”

Neil Burkhardt, a Veterans Affairs employee and former Marine, heard gunshots, ran into the office and saw Bricker running down the hall. Lennon was chasing him. Burkhardt tackled Lennon, causing her head to break through an office window, according to court records.

Burkhardt, 31, of Portland struck Lennon in the face until other employees were able to take away her gun. He pointed the gun at her, and she reached for her purse, court records say. Fearful that she had another gun in her purse, Burkhardt struck Lennon in the face with the butt of the gun, court records say. A security guard secured Lennon’s wrists until police arrived, the documents show.

Protection order expired

At Bricker’s request, District Court Commissioner Jeffrey Witteman issued two temporary protection orders against Lennon in January 2013. Witteman denied a request for a permanent protection order on March 20, 2013, when the temporary order expired, because neither Bricker or Lennon showed up at the hearing.

After Lennon moved to Arizona, Bricker gave up on seeking the protection order he filed against her because he couldn’t find her address for serving court papers, Burkhardt told investigators, according to court records. Lennon moved to her aunt’s Portland home two weeks ago from Gilbert, Ariz., records show.

During Thursday’s court hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino said that after Lennon moved back to the Northwest, she purchased a firearm.

“But for a bystander’s actions, who knows how many others could have been hit,” Gasperino said.

Bricker, chief financial officer for the VA Northwest Health Network since 2008, has worked for Veterans Affairs for 21 years.

Lennon was a financial auditor before she resigned from the agency of her own accord about two years ago to relocate out of state, according to Veterans Affairs.

In an email to Bricker contained in court documents, Lennon wrote that she left because Bricker was married.

Megan Crowley, spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs, said that Bricker and Lennon did not have any sort of sexual relationship.

Lennon wrote to Bricker sometimes several times a day, according to court records. Her emails professed love for Bricker, urged him to leave his wife and included threats to kill him.

In his request for a protection order on Jan. 11, 2013, Bricker said the unwanted contact with Lennon began in late November 2012. Bricker reported the alleged stalking to Vancouver police in early January 2013, according to court documents.

In a Jan. 10, 2013, email to Veterans Affairs officials, Bricker expressed concerns about Lennon’s emails and asked for advice on what to do. He also asked in the email whether he should warn Lennon’s prospective employer, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General, “to let them know they are hiring a mentally unstable person,” according to court records.

Bricker ‘doing well’

The shooting occurred at the Center for Community Health building on the Veterans Affairs campus, 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. The building was locked down for the rest of the day. The fourth floor of the building houses the VA Northwest Health Network.

Bricker sustained serious injuries and was hospitalized at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. His condition was not available Thursday.

“He is doing well,” Crowley said. She declined to comment on whether Bricker remains in the hospital.

“We are really trying to respect the privacy of our friends here, and we don’t want to make any more comment,” Crowley said.

Lennon sustained some injuries to her face and chest area and was treated at a local hospital while under guard by law enforcement.

She was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon and booked into the Clark County Jail.

Burkhardt, who works at Veterans Affairs as the executive assistant to the department director, suffered an injury to his right hand while disarming Lennon, and he required treatment at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, according to the sheriff’s office. He was released from the hospital Wednesday, according to hospital spokeswoman Ashley Stanford. No one else was injured in the incident.

Second shooting

Tuesday’s incident was the second workplace shooting in two days in Vancouver.

Two men died Monday in a shooting at Benjamin Moore Paints, a paint distribution warehouse at 1800 W. Fourth Plain Blvd. in Vancouver.

Police say that Robert R. Brown, 64, a truck driver for the paint company, shot and killed logistics manager Ryan Momeny, 45, at about 11:30 a.m. before killing himself.

An autopsy report released Wednesday stated that Momeny died of homicide and Brown of suicide.

Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Neiman said that the investigation into Tuesday’s workplace shooting doesn’t show any copycat qualities.

Suspected V.A. shooter appears in court