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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ousted airman killed his psychologist first

Gunman targeted man who recommended discharge

Bonnie Harris and Jess Walter The Spokesman-Review
The man suspected of killing four people in the Fairchild shooting spree was kicked out of the Air Force a month ago, his mother said. The psychologist who recommended Dean Mellberg’s discharge was the first to die Monday. Spokane authorities said they believe Mellberg, 20, of Lansing, Mich., took a taxi to the Fairchild Air Force Base hospital and opened fire, wounding at least 21. The man was later shot to death by military police. Sheriff’s deputies said Mellberg’s military identification was found on the body. Military officials wouldn’t confirm Mellberg’s identity. Last year, he was transferred from Spokane to New Mexico, said his mother, Lois Mellberg, of Lansing. Spokane County sheriff’s deputies said Mellberg apparently went after the Fairchild psychologist who, in February, recommended Mellberg be discharged. Mellberg told his mother he was discharged for “riding his bike across a golf course,” she said. Lois Mellberg was waiting Monday for her son’s belongings to be mailed back from the Air Force. Instead, she received word of the shootings. She said she hadn’t heard from the Air Force and didn’t believe her son could be involved. “It can’t be him,” she said. “The last I knew, he was in Alaska.” Lois Mellberg said she hadn’t heard from her son since June 13, when he called from Anchorage. The manager of Arnold’s Motel, N6217 Division, said Mellberg checked in June 15 and spent the next five days in a $29-a-night room. On Monday, two hours before the shootings, the manager chewed Mellberg out for oversleeping. “He was supposed to check out at 11 and he was late,” said the manager, who requested anonymity. “I was ticked at him for that. I didn’t know he was disturbed. I certainly didn’t know he had a gun.” About 1:30 p.m. Mellberg packed a duffle bag, called a taxi and sat on a curbside bench on North Division. A large, white Styrofoam box wrapped in black electrical tape stuck out of his bag, the manager said. It was all he carried. His cab arrived at 2:10 p.m. “The car pulled up, (Mellberg) smiled real nice and got in,” she said. “That was it. Perfectly fine.” Police Chief Terry Mangan confirmed the gunman was the Arnold’s Motel tenant from Lansing. Undersheriff John Goldman said Mellberg’s face matched a photograph on the military identification found on the gunman’s body. Mellberg was a lab technician, his mother said. She visited him in August and said he was happy in Spokane. He was upset when he transferred to Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, N.M., she said. When he was given an administrative discharge, he told his mother he didn’t receive proper representation from Air Force attorneys. He also tried to get transferred back to the Northwest. “But he didn’t really have any friends in Spokane,” she said. “I don’t know why he would go back there.” After his discharge, Mellberg kicked around the Southwest. Then, a few weeks ago, he called and said he was moving to Alaska. “I’m going to believe it’s not him until someone comes here and tells me it’s him,” Lois Mellberg said. “And if he’s in Spokane, you tell him to call us.”