Mental health evaluation ordered for shooting suspect

Incident occurred at Vancouver VA campus

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

The woman accused of shooting her former supervisor at a U.S. Veterans Affairs office in Vancouver will be sent to Western State Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Clark County Superior Court Judge John Nichols on Tuesday ordered the evaluation of Deborah A. Lennon, 46, at the request of her attorney, Steven Rucker. During the brief hearing, Lennon appeared with Rucker in front of Nichols. She’s is being held at the Clark County Jail on $1 million bail.

“There appears to be a history of erratic behavior that would lead us to have concerns about her mental health,” Rucker said. “Before we move forward and do anything in the courts, we have to determine whether she is competent to understand the proceedings and aid and assist counsel.”

The evaluation will be restricted to determining whether Lennon is able to aid in her defense. It doesn’t address all mental health issues.

Lennon’s arraignment, previously set for Feb. 20, will be delayed pending the evaluation. Nichols scheduled a hearing for March 13, when he will review the evaluation. Lennon is expected to be transported to the hospital within a couple of days, Rucker said.

Western State Hospital employees sometimes evaluate defendants for competency in the jail, a process that usually takes no more than an hour. In the hospital, she’ll have 24-hour monitoring, said Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino.

Lennon is charged with first-degree attempted murder of Allen Bricker, 45, chief financial officer for the VA Northwest Health Network. She’s also charged with stalking, cyberstalking and first-degree assault.

Lennon walked into Bricker’s fourth-floor office about 4 p.m. Feb. 4, pulled out a handgun and shot Bricker twice in the chest, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. His office is in the Center for Community Health building on the Veterans Affairs campus, 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

Veterans Affairs employee and former Marine Neil Burkhardt, 31, of Portland tackled Lennon to the ground and wrestled away her gun, court documents say. He and other Veterans Affairs employees detained her until police arrived.

Bricker sought a protection order against Lennon in January 2013, alleging that she was stalking him with daily emails, according to court documents.

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 filed in District Court, Lennon wrote that she left because Bricker was married.

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

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 nor Lennon showed up at the hearing.

Bricker eventually gave up on seeking the protection order he filed against Lennon because he couldn’t find her new address in Arizona to serve court papers, Burkhardt told investigators, according to court records.

After living in Arizona for 15 months, Lennon moved to her aunt’s home in Portland and purchased a firearm, Gasperino said. She showed up at Bricker’s office a few weeks ago and was escorted off the property, court records show. Employees reportedly installed locks on the back door of the office to prevent her from sneaking in.

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.

Bricker suffered serious injuries during the shooting and was hospitalized at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Crowley has not disclosed whether he’s been released from the hospital, citing his family’s request for privacy, but has said he’s doing well. The hospital also is not releasing any information.