Woman signaled desire to die

From The Oregonian, December 6, 1990

Mari Lyn Sandoz wanted a police officer to do her the ultimate “favor” — take her life.

Two unwitting Portland policemen fulfilled her wish Tuesday night when the despondent Longview, Wash., woman pointed a pellet pistol at them that was a replica of a semi-automatic handgun.

Police Sgt. Michael R. Barkley and Officer Craig A. Bonnarens answered her threat with a fusillade of gunfire, hitting her with 20 of the 22 shots they fired.

The officers spotted Sandoz, 29, about 8:55 p.m. in the doorway of the U.S. Bancorp Tower, 555 S.W. Oak St. She was sitting on a step, the gun under one leg, trying to slash her wrists.

As the police approached, she picked up the gun with her right hand and pointed it at them. The officers drew their semi-automatic handguns. The shooting lasted three seconds.

Earlier in the day, Sandoz had delivered a suicide note to an acquaintance in Longview.

“I got the gun,” she wrote. “I’m going to find a cop. Maybe he will do me a favor. I won’t be around as a nuisance to you or anyone anymore.”

Barkley, 35, is a 12-year veteran of the bureau,; and Bonnarens, 27, has been with the Portland police for eight years. They have been placed on routine administrative leave and declined to be interviewed.

Bonnarens emptied his Sig Sauer .45-caliber pistol, which holds seven rounds in the clip and one in the chamber. Barkley fired his Glock 9mm pistol 14 times. The Glock holds 17 rounds in the clip and one in the chamber.

The names of the officers initially were withheld to allow them to tell relatives what had happened, said Sgt. Derrick Foxworth, the Police Bureau’s public information officer.

“Obviously, it’s a very stressful time for them,” Foxworth said.

Results of the investigation will be turned over to the Multnomah County district attorney for determination of whether the shooting was justified.

Homicide detective Ed Herbert, who interviewed the officers, said the two men “are both deeply affected by it. They were quite distraught to learn that someone had used them for a suicide.”

When facing an armed suspect, an officer may, under Police Bureau policy, “reasonably use force necessary to protect oneself and the lives of others,” Foxworth said.

“Keep in mind,” Herbert said, “that officers are trained to do one thing and one thing only when they fire: They fire to kill. We don’t train for minimal shots. They need to deactivate the threat as thoroughly as possible.”

The officers were alone as they approached Sandoz, Herbert said. They identified themselves and told her to remain still and not to go for the gun, he said.

The officers got within about 5 feet of her. She grabbed the gun, and the officers took a few steps back and opened fire when the gun was pointed at them.

‘They are scared’

“The adrenalin is flowing,” Herbert said. “Quite frankly, they are scared. There is no way to judge, `Gee, my first five shots did it.’ ”

Herbert said he could cite numerous instances in which wounded suspects survived long enough to fire a weapon. “I know it’s hard for the public to understand,” he said.

The autopsy on Sandoz took most of the day and was one of the longest that Herbert can remember.

Her body had so many entry and exit wounds that Dr. Ed Wilson, a deputy state medical examiner, had trouble determining how many times she had been shot.

Wilson said Sandoz died of loss of blood from multiple gunshot wounds. She was hit mostly in the chest and abdomen and several times in the arm, he said.

She also had about 20 “hesitation cuts,” wounds no more than an eighth of an inch deep and an inch long, on her left wrist. None was life-threatening. Both wrists had numerous healed hesitation cuts, he said.

The events leading immediately to the Tuesday-night shooting started about 2 p.m. Tuesday in Longview. But the tragedy was years in the making.

“She has a lengthy history with us and law enforcement agencies in Cowlitz County,” said Lt. Charles Harper of the Longview police. “Many or most of the cases are related to mental health problems.”

Friend gets note

Sandoz dropped off an envelope for an acquaintance at a Longview car dealership about 2 p.m., Harper said. The friend did not receive the note until 4 p.m. but then immediately phoned police, Harper said.

In the note, Sandoz said she was going north. She made other rambling comments that Harper declined to specify. Longview police put out a bulletin to neighboring agencies asking help in locating and detaining her.

About 7:15 p.m., Portland police were sent to a phone booth near Broadway and West Burnside Street after reports came in about an armed and despondent woman who said she had shot at police before. The officers found no one.

A second call came in shortly before 9 p.m., but the caller hung up before the call could be traced. Police returned to the area and spotted blood in a phone booth at Southwest Fifth Avenue and Oak Street. The area was searched and Sandoz was found in the bank doorway.

Bud May, a longtime police reporter for the Longview Daily News, said Sandoz was well known to townspeople and police. She had a long history of mental troubles but had never been viewed as a violent threat.

Single and unemployed, she often rode a bicycle around Longview, May said. She had no previous arrests of consequence, he said, and her mental lapses were viewed as almost routine.

Threats made in ’87

In February 1987, Portland police took Sandoz into custody on a mental hold. According to a report of the incident, she had phoned police in Kelso, Wash., from a Portland tavern to say she had a handgun and would slash her wrists. Police spotted her walking along Southwest Morrison Street.

Police took her to University Hospital, where she was treated for superficial cuts to her wrists. Police confiscated a paint scraper she had used to cut herself with.

In March 1987, Portland police encountered her again, this time on Hayden Island. She had cut her forearm with a razor blade about 20 times. Paramedics treated the superficial wounds at the scene.

Police then took her to Dammasch State Hospital in Wilsonville, which refused to admit her, according to reports.

The examining physician on duty determined that “she was not suicidal and that Sandoz was only using these attempts to get attention,” according to the report.