Mental evaluation delayed for suspect in VA shooting

Woman allegedly shot her former supervisor




A lack of bed space has delayed a mental health evaluation for a woman accused of shooting her former supervisor at a U.S. Veterans Affairs office in Vancouver.

Deborah A. Lennon, 46, is due to be sent to Western State Hospital today for an evaluation to determine whether she’s mentally fit to assist in her defense against charges of attempted murder and other crimes.

Superior Court Judge John Nichols ordered the evaluation about a month ago. Lennon’s attorney, Steven Rucker, said during a hearing Thursday that Lennon had not yet been transported to the mental hospital because the hospital did not have enough bed space. Lennon has been held in the Clark County Jail on $1 million bail.

She was deemed too ill to appear in court Thursday.

Once she arrives at the Steilacoom hospital, Lennon is expected to stay for 10 days to two weeks, Rucker said Thursday.

A court review of the doctors’ findings is scheduled for April 8.

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

Until she’s found competent, Lennon may not be arraigned on charges of attempted murder, stalking, cyberstalking and first-degree assault.

Lennon is accused of walking into a fourth-floor office of the VA Northwest Health Network and shooting Chief Financial Officer Allen Bricker, 45, twice in the chest about 4 p.m. Feb. 4. His office is in the Center for Community Health building on the Veterans Affairs campus, 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

The shooting stopped after Veterans Affairs employee and former Marine Neil Burkhardt, 31, of Portland tackled Lennon and wrestled away her handgun, court documents say. He and other Veterans Affairs employees detained her until police arrived.

Lennon had worked in the office as a financial auditor until she quit about two years ago. While she and Bricker were colleagues, she became infatuated with him, according to a protection order Bricker sought in January 2013.

Bricker, who did not return her affection, alleged that Lennon stalked him with daily emails, according to court documents.

At Bricker’s request, District Court Commissioner Jeffrey Witteman issued two temporary protection orders. But he denied a request for a permanent protection order two months later, after Lennon had resigned her job and left the state. She said she was leaving because Bricker was married.

Bricker eventually gave up on seeking the protection order because he couldn’t find her new address to serve court papers, according to court records.

After living in Arizona for 15 months, Lennon returned.

She moved to her aunt’s home in Portland and purchased a firearm, said Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino. She showed up at Bricker’s office two to three weeks before the shooting and was escorted off the property, court documents say, adding afterward employees 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 allegedly professed her love, urged Bricker to leave his wife and included threats to kill him.

Bricker sustained serious injuries during the shooting and was hospitalized at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. The VA has not disclosed his medical condition, citing his family’s request for privacy, other than to say he is doing well.