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

‘Once-in-a-lifetime kind of guy’: Colleagues, church leaders mourn for nurse with ‘so much compassion’ who was shot and killed on the job in Spokane

Douglas Brant  (Courtesy of Charles Hartman)

Douglas Brant worked tirelessly with his patients – often adding another one to his already full schedule – while still carving out time to teach youth guitar lessons. Sometimes, he combined his nursing and musical skills by picking up and playing a guitar in a patient’s home to connect with them.

Brant’s life was cut short Thursday when a 33-year-old man shot and killed him while the Providence registered nurse was treating the shooter’s grandmother at her Spokane home, police said. After a manhunt that lasted nearly a day, police arrested Mitchell E. Chandler on Friday near the Cascade Mobile Home Park residence where the shooting happened.

“It’s a shocking and tragic loss for us,” said Kevin Wilfley, pastor at Upper Columbia Academy Church near Spangle, where Brant served as an elder.

Brant, 56, also taught private guitar lessons once a week to kids across the street at Upper Columbia Academy, a boarding high school of about 275 students that is operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Wilfley said Brant was a “once-in-a-lifetime kind of guy.”

“It’s very unusual to find a man with so much integrity, with so much compassion,” he said. “The world is short on supply with those kind of people, and he was one of those.”

Brant’s colleagues described him in superlatives : the “greatest smile,” the “biggest heart.”

He worked as a Providence nurse since 2005, mostly on the West Side. Brant spent the past four years working in Spokane as a senior home health nurse and certified wound treatment associate at Providence Visiting Nurses Association Home Health.

“I just remember he smiled a lot and always brought joy to his patients,” said Amanda Crawford-Basaraba, a Providence VNA Home Health registered nurse.

In a Friday statement from Providence on Brant’s death, the hospital said its workers were “devastated.”

“We were heartbroken to learn about the loss of a Providence Home Health caregiver who was killed yesterday afternoon while on a visit to provide care to patients in their Spokane home,” the statement read. “We extend our deepest condolences to his family. We are also supporting his coworkers, who are devastated by the tragic loss of their friend and colleague.”

Crawford-Basaraba said friendliness like Brant’s is important for a home health nurse, who teaches and cares for patients inside their home.

In his bio on Wenatchee Valley College’s website, Brant wrote about how he wanted to help people by using his nursing degree.

“You can’t really separate any part of the human being. Nutrition, life style, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being – all of this is very closely connected,” Brant said. “In Isaiah 45:2 the Bible says, ‘I will make the crooked places straight’ and I’d like to help others in that way. I would like to learn how to put these pieces together in a way that is accessible to people for their entire wellbeing.”

But his giving spirit also extended to his coworkers.

Despite Brant’s full schedule, Crawford-Basaraba said he offered to help start an IV for one of her patients the day he died. She said Brant took on too many patients some days.

“That’s just who he was, you know?” Crawford-Basaraba said. “He’d go above and beyond, and we all knew that about him.”

Kathleen Thompson, a Providence VNA Home Health registered nurse and certified diabetes care and education specialist, recalled how Brant always said “yes.”

“He was such a hard worker,” she said. “He would take extra patients all the time.”

Leslie Hockett, a physical therapist at Providence VNA Home Health, said Brant called her the night before he was killed asking about the health history of the suspect’s grandmother.

“That just epitomized his thoroughness,” Hockett said.

She said the two chatted for about 30 minutes, and it’s something she now treasures.

“That was actually pretty special to me, that I got to talk to him so recently,” Hockett said.

She said Brant had a “great capacity to read patients,” understanding when they wanted to simply sit and talk. He was a good listener and easy to talk to, Hockett said.

“You never got the sense he was in a rush with patients, even though I know he had a super-full caseload,” she said.

Hockett said Brant spent many evenings doing paperwork because he was so thorough with patients at their home.

“He was just very dedicated to his patient care,” she said.

Donni Heidenson, a registered nurse at Providence VNA Home Health, said she worked closely with Brant because they covered the same regions of Spokane and often treated the same patients. They were friends.

She said Brant was always positive and kind, and would give the shirt off his back to someone. He also had a way of connecting with patients, noting he would start playing a guitar if he saw the instrument at a patient’s home.

“He’s had a lot of clinical experience, and so he was somebody that we could call upon to provide support for just about anything that we might need,” Heidenson said.

While Brant worked long hours, he also knew when he needed to be with family.

Ann Halstrom, director at Providence VNA Home Health, said Brant was scheduled to work Thanksgiving this year, but requested the day off to be with his family.

Thompson said Brant recently volunteered to serve as treasurer of the Washington State Nurses Association at Providence VNA Home Health. She said the two planned to speak on behalf of nurses at the state nurses association’s “Lobby Day” in February at the state Capitol.

The association said it was “heartbroken” over Brant’s killing.

“This is devastating to his family, his patients, his colleagues at Providence VNA, and to WSNA,” the association’s statement said.

While his dedication to nursing was evident, several coworkers noted Brant’s strong religious faith.

“His faith was the core of his existence,” Heidenson said. “He would walk into a room and the smile on his face would warm the room.”

Charles Hartman, vice principal for academics at Upper Columbia Academy, called Brant a “kind soul” and a good mentor to young people. He said Brant was passionate about teaching children how to play guitar, which Brant excelled at himself.

Douglas Brant (center) plays the guitar. Brant died Thursday when a 33-year-old man shot and killed him  (Courtesy of Kathleen Thompson)
Douglas Brant (center) plays the guitar. Brant died Thursday when a 33-year-old man shot and killed him (Courtesy of Kathleen Thompson)

Jeff Deming, principal at Upper Columbia Academy, said Brant desired to see his students become successful, and he used compassion and patience with them to achieve that. Deming said Brant had a welcoming spirit and cheerful smile.

“He made you feel included,” Deming said.

Besides teaching students to play the guitar, Brant entertained his fellow nurses at get-togethers by playing the instrument. Crawford-Basaraba said Brant played guitar and sang last year at a work Christmas party.

Chandler, the suspect in Brant’s shooting, faces a second-degree murder charge and remained Sunday in the Spokane County Jail on a $1 million bond.

Jean Chandler, Mitchell Chandler’s grandmother, told police Brant arrived at her house Thursday afternoon. About an hour into the visit, Mitchell Chandler, who was cooking in the kitchen, shot Brant, according to court documents.

There was no indication they had met before the visit, which was Brant’s first at the home.

Jean Chandler told police her grandson has mental health issues from traumatic brain injuries sustained in bull-riding. He refuses to take medications and is paranoid and very protective of his grandparents, Jean Chandler told police.

Mitchell Chandler said in 2011 he already had seven concussions, according to a story that year from the Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks, Alaska, about his bull-riding career. The story said his grandfather and father were bull riders, but his mother did not let him participate as a child. That changed when he turned 18, the story said.

Court documents indicate Mitchell Chandler has a history of violence and threats against workers.

He was arrested for assaulting a veterinarian after Jean Chandler’s dog died while having a tooth removed, she said in court documents. He was arrested another time after he allegedly threatened to shoot developers at a construction site.

The state Nurses Association said workplace violence has become “an all-too-familiar part of the job.”

“In fact, workplace violence against nurses has risen during the pandemic,” the statement said. “We hear of nurses being punched, kicked, scratched on a too-regular basis, but a killing is rare and horrific. Our thoughts are with Doug’s family and colleagues as they absorb the violent loss of a co-worker and friend.”

Thompson agreed there is a great deal of violence against nurses, and that Brant’s killing was unprovoked.

In a jailhouse interview with KREM, Mitchell Chandler said he shot Brant because he believes the nurse was responsible for 9/11 and wanted to kill his grandparents, the station reported.

“Doug was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Thompson said.