Psychotherapist Beth Higgins only wanted to save her patient’s life.
Never would she have imagined that exactly one hour after she called the police he would end up dead.
The cops were supposed to save Afghanistan veteran Brian Babb.
He was a former captain of the Oregon Army National Guard and had been injured during a combat deployment to Afghanistan in 2006.
Since his return he had suffered from acute post-traumatic stress disorder as well as a serious brain injury.
What happened that day?
We can only speculate the crisis Babb was going through when he called Higgins on the afternoon of March 30.
The therapist normally does not work on Mondays; however, by chance, she stopped by at her practice on that fateful day.
When she heard her patient’s voice on the answering machine she decided to pick up the phone.
On the other end Babb, a divorced father of two, was seeking her attention; in an attempt to see how it would sound, he told Higgins he had fired a 9mm handgun.
His roommate and friend Jim Antonini had been home for at least one hour before he made the call to his therapist. According to Antonini, he did not hear any gunshot.
Based on this, the shrink thought it was best to seek help from the police so she called 911.
The dispatcher asked her if he had fired a shot through a window, Higgins had not heard a shot and she told the person on the other line that she believed he had fired into the ceiling or the wall.
However, the person who took the therapist’s call noted that Babb had a gun to his head and had shot at least one bullet “into a window or somewhere into the house”.
This is the message that was conveyed to the officers, and it became the premise they worked on later.
Nonetheless, the plan was that Higgins would continue to stay on the line trying to calm the agitated man.
It was clear she had only called the cops to make sure that Babb and those around him would remain safe.
Shortly after the call police arrived in an armored vehicle.
Much to Higgins’ surprise they decided to interrupt the call, she found it very puzzling.
“I couldn’t even fathom it, and it made me really wonder what had they heard, what did I say, how did it happen? How did it go from there to there? It was very confusing to me,” she remarked.
How did Babb die?
Experts have tried to piece together what must have happened in Babb’s last hour.
We now know that a crisis negotiator was brought in and was instructed to ask the man to step out of his house unarmed.
This is despite the officers being fully aware that Higgins was still talking to him.
There are conflicting accounts of what Babb did after he was issued the instructions; however, one thing is for sure Officer Will Stutesman fired a single shot which proved fatal.
Moments before he was killed, Higgins knew something was not quite right – her patient had stopped talking to her on the phone, so she pleaded the dispatcher on the other line to let her help him.
“I could go there. I could do anything. I just can’t have him die,” she said.
Her requests were brushed aside and instead the dispatcher just tried to comfort her by telling her that she was doing a great job.
Stutesman said he saw the victim raised a rifle, but the negotiator, who was sitting next to him, claims a fence was in the way and they could not see Babb.
The latter’s version was confirmed by the footage from the police vehicle the pair were sitting in.
However, Lane County district attorney Alex Gardner says perhaps the negotiator missed it because he had turned or must have been looking somewhere else.
After all is said and done, it turns out Babb’s rifle had been unloaded all the time.
Friends and family were shocked to learn that that Police Auditor Mark Gissinger and following from that the Eugene Civilian
Review Board had reached the conclusion that the police were justified in what they did. At the same time, the board acknowledges that the evidence presented was not precise enough.
Police Chief Peter Kerns says this is a learning prospect for the department.
“It represents a terrific opportunity for us to take the entire episode apart, moment by moment, and ask where we could perform better,” he commented.
Commissioner Gissinger said although all cops the same training, it is best that officers who responded to veterans in crisis are “people persons”.
According to the Babb family, the solution is to use a dedicated task force when it comes to helping veterans in distress.
In fact, they are proposing this should be implemented as law.