Engeldinger's parents torn by son's mental illness, shooting rampageby Cathy Wurzer, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Transcripts of the 911 calls made in the aftermath of the shooting rampage at Accent Singage Systems last month in Minneapolis reflect the fear and anguish of that day, when Andrew Engeldinger, an employee who had just lost his job, took a gun and started firing.
Six people died. More were injured. And Engeldinger died after he turned the gun on himself.
"It was a brain disorder which caused him to do what he did," said Carolyn Engeldinger, Andrew's mother.
"I know that there are people that won't understand that," added his father, Chuck Engeldinger. "And they've got the right to be angry and everything. I'm not saying that they don't."
In this second part of an interview with Cathy Wurzer of MPR News, the Engeldingers, accompanied by Sue Abderholden of the Alliance on Mental Illness, talked about their son and how they tried to get him help. A transcript of the interview is below, along with a link to Tuesday's transcript.
MINNEAPOLIS WORKPLACE SHOOTING
• Part 1: Family describes Andrew Engeldinger's mental illness
• Part II: Engeldinger withdrew, only to emerge in news reports
• National Alliance on Mental Illness - Minnesota
Cathy Wurzer: Sue Abderholden, I have to ask you this: As you know, some states mandate treatment for someone suffering from mental illness. Minnesota isn't one of them. Should that change?
Sue Abderholden: We do order court-ordered treatment under certain circumstances, I just want to make sure people know that. So if he hadn't been able to work or provide food for himself and those kinds of things, then he might have been eligible to be committed.
Wurzer: What do you make of the fact that police found bottles of prescription drugs used to treat depression and insomnia in Andrew's home. Does that indicate that he was being treated, perhaps?
Chuck Engeldinger: Well, I'll share with you the fact that he had trouble for years sleeping, he would complain about rabbits that would be thumping underneath the porch all night long and he can't sleep. So I tore up the floor, found that there was no disturbance to the ground at all and I sealed it up again, and then he still complained after that. But as far as prescription drugs go, since we haven't had contact, I don't know if those drugs were administered years ago of if it was something he just started taking — then again, was he really taking them?
Wurzer: And were they the proper medications?
Chuck Engeldinger: Right, and obviously if he has paranoid schizophrenia, it really didn't make any difference. So I don't make anything of it at all, really.
Wurzer: Did the mental health system fail Andrew and his family, or did they end up in kind of a gray area?
Abderholden: I really think they ended up in a gray area. But in this situation, the family did everything that they could to encourage him to access treatment. He didn't meet the treatment criteria, he was functioning in the community, and I don't think it was a failure of the system, a failure of our commitment laws, a failure of the family. It was just something tragic that happened.
Wurzer: Do you remember the last time you saw and talked to Andrew?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Yes, it was the day after Christmas in 2010. And he stayed about 20 minutes.
Chuck Engeldinger: Yep, had a meal, took his gifts and left and that was it.
Carolyn Engeldinger: And we never saw him again.
Chuck Engeldinger: Just cut us off, right there.
Carolyn Engeldinger: But over the last 21 months that he's not been in contact with the family, we've made phone calls to him and left messages. We emailed, we sent cards, we drove by the house frequently because our greatest fear was that he would lose his job, not be able to pay his mortgage and become homeless.
Chuck Engeldinger: Our other children were looking through for photos for his memorial service, but I was looking at some of them and you could see how some of them he was removed from everybody. He'd be a space away. Everyone was nice and tight but he'd be a whole space away. And he'd be just blank, like he was glazed out into space.
Wurzer: Is this pretty common, what you're hearing, Sue?
Abderholden: Yes. You know, when you look backwards, you can find and identify some of those symptoms, things like that, the spaces in the photographs, but when you're in the midst of it, you really can't see it until the symptoms get really severe. Because who wants to think that a child of yours may be developing a serious mental illness. No one wants to think that.
Wurzer: And as you say, that's the last time you saw and heard from him, and then you received this horrible call.
Carolyn Engeldinger: Well, I was watching the five o'clock news and they did a live shot of a breaking news story of a shooting at Accent Signage, and I thought, 'Oh, my God, that's where Andy works.' Of course our first instinct was, is our son one of the victims? So Chuck called him at his house and left a message saying 'Andy this is Dad, please call us.' And of course, we never heard anything.
Chuck Engeldinger: Well, we kind of figured, well, you know we could wait and wait and wait since he's never responded to any phone calls, so what we did then was Carolyn called the police department to inquire if our son was safe. They had to have another officer call us at the scene. The officer called and asked Carolyn if we wanted to go to the site, they could pick us up and take us there. Then they called 10 minutes later and said traffic was real busy, and it'd be better if you'd go over to Bobby and Steve's gas station, park there and we'll take you up from there an take you to the site. So they did, and we still didn't know anything. We were there in a squad car, and you could see people consoling each other. We weren't part of that. They came back and said, 'everything's wrapped up here, they got the shooter.' But they still couldn't tell us if our son was OK.
Carolyn Engeldinger: I kept asking, is my son all right?
Chuck Engeldinger: Yep, we asked over and over, and he says, 'I can't tell you that, but they'd like to interview you.' I said OK. They took us down to City Hall. First thing when they came out we asked, 'Is our son OK?' And they said, 'We don't know that.'
Wurzer: You must have had some inkling that something was very wrong, though.
Chuck Engeldinger: Yes, but Carolyn asked if we were suspect or something, why are they asking us to be interviewed, but they wouldn't tell us anything.
Carolyn Engeldinger: By the time they took us downtown, we were very suspicious that Andy had more involvement than being a victim.
Wurzer: But as you went over to this company you didn't think anytime that he...?
Chuck Engeldinger: No.
Carolyn Engeldinger: No. He'd never been violent. We thought he was possibly a victim.
Wurzer: So you're at the police station, you know something's wrong, you're hoping your son is not among the victims. When did you find out he died?
Chuck Engeldinger: So we drove home, and when we got into the house, the kids told us that they saw on the Internet that Andy was dead and that he was the shooter.
Wurzer: And that's how you found out that your son died? And that he also was the perpetrator.
Chuck Engeldinger: Yes, right.
Wurzer: I can't even imagine your shock at that point.
Carolyn Engeldinger: Yeah, we were pretty, we were pretty bad off.
Chuck Engeldinger: Yeah, we were. Wurzer: You and your family really are living your own nightmare, in a sense.
Carolyn Engeldinger: Oh yes.
Wurzer: Because despite your best intentions and your help, Andy took the lives of many innocent people and took his own life. So in addition to the shock and the saddness, you must be going through a range of emotions. Can you talk about that?
Carolyn Engeldinger: It's very, very painful to know that our son did this. But also it's very, very painful that our son lived his own tragedy. It's very tragic for someone to have a serious, persistent mental illness, because they lose everything. He lost his interests, he lost his vitality, he lost relationships, he was so isolated.
Chuck Engeldinger: He lost his family and all he had left was his job. And then when his job was gone, that was the trigger for him, I'm sure. I don't know. It had to have been extremely painful for him.
Wurzer: You, though, are carrying a huge burden here, and there are very few people who understand what you're going through. Have you had the opportunity to talk to any members of other families whose loved ones have perpetrated similar crimes? Has anyone reached out to you?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Yes. And it's been very helpful, because although everyone else is sympathetic and well-intentioned, no one else really understands what it is to have a child who becomes a murderer. It's unbearable.
Wurzer: How are you dealing with your grief and any feelings of isolation or other emotions that, I'm sure, well up at the drop of a hat for you?
Carolyn Engeldinger: Well, I'm seeing a therapist. We will be doing grief counseling, and we're just trying to take it minute by minute, day by day. It is hard. We have lost our son. And we know that all these other families are suffering due to his actions, and that's very hard.
- Morning Edition, 10/17/2012, 6:40 a.m.