Judy Murray watched from down the street on Wednesday as her grandson Andrew Patterson left his residence.
She quickly called her daughter, Patricia Woods.
Woods passed that information, as well as where Patterson was driving, along to Hutchinson Police Department authorities, who stopped and searched his car.
There, police say they found “detailed plans to carry out an act of mass violence.” Later that day, police utilized a search warrant at Patterson’s residence, where officers said they found additional evidence related to a planned attack.
For months, family members had worried about the 24-year-old Hutchinson resident’s mental health.
“He was a loner and didn’t know how to ask for help,” Murray said.
Family members said they reached out to authorities and mental health organizations as Patterson spiralled. Little could be done, however.
Murray and Woods knew they couldn’t sit idly by, especially once they became convinced others could be in danger.
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Andrew Patterson’s writings included violent thoughts, self-harm
Murray and Woods, who is Patterson’s aunt, heard Patterson speak about his mental state, intrusive thoughts and anger toward his peers. His thoughts, they said, included acts of violence, aggression and self-harm.
Murray spoke with her grandson often but saw what she called “his eventual spiral into aggressive ideas and despair” as she desperately tried to help him.
“He was just sinking, sinking deeper into this giant hole,” Murray said. “He started writing it in a notebook — these intrusive thoughts — because he told me when he writes it down, it makes him feel better.”
Patterson wrote thoughts of committing a crime to initiate a police response, Murray said. Eventually, he wrote about planning and perpetrating a mass shooting at his workplace — the Dillons Distribution Center on Fourth Avenue in Hutchinson.
Murray said she contacted the Hutchinson Police Department but said officers told her they couldn’t take action without evidence. Murray and Woods said they talked to law enforcement a few times.
The Hutchinson Police Department declined comment on the family’s claims.
Family turned to authorities in hopes of preventing tragedy
Murray said she then turned to local organizations for help.
“These thoughts would come back, so my daughter (Patterson’s mother) and I talked him into checking himself in at the (Hutchinson Regional Medical Center) and trying to get help from them,” Murray said. “He was there for about a week, and they gave him multiple diagnoses and medications, but none of it seemed to make any kind of tooth.”
Murray said Patterson, with the help of his family, then turned to Horizons Mental Health Center. The organization had long waiting lists for patient care, but Patterson needed immediate help.
Horizons director of training and education Beth Akins said the wait time for ongoing patient care averages about six to eight weeks because of a staff shortage and an expansion of programs offered.
“There is no setup designated system to help someone who’s in the condition that my grandson is in,” Murray said.
Akins said Horizons recently added adult crisis and mobile crisis units to its roster of services after the US Department of Health and Human Services designated Horizons as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.
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Violent writings and suicidal thoughts increased, family says
Murray said Patterson worked in The Hutchinson News mailroom until March when he was hired at Dillons Distribution Center.
Murray and Woods said Patterson enjoyed his job as a security guard at the distribution center first and wanted to protect people.
Eventually, Murray said, the distribution center hired a family member with whom Patterson had a tumultuous relationship. He had asked the hiring staff to deny the application.
Patterson’s thoughts in his journal about violence and worsened suicide after the hire, Murray said.
Patterson doesn’t own a firearm but began looking online to purchase one, she said, leading the women to contact authorities with information about the journal.
Murray and Woods said they wanted to help Patterson and prevent the harm or death of others. They said they agreed to help the police in his arrest.
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Suspect’s family advocates for plan for people struggling with mental health
“I believe what needs to be done is there needs to be a plan of action for people who are in the same situation where there’s a place you can go and make these reports,” Murray said. “They will do what needs to be done to keep Dade (Andrew) safe and anyone that he might potentially harm safe.”
Hutchinson Police Department officers arrested 24-year-old Patterson at at 1:51 pm Wednesday on the 200 block of East Carpenter Street. The arrest was based on his journal, the planned attack against Dillons warehouse employees and other acts of violence detailed in the notebook, the department said in a news release.
Reno County District Attorney Tom Stanton told The Hutchinson News he could expect to file charges by week’s end.
“Prison is not where he needs to be,” Woods said. “He needs to be in a mental hospital getting help to feel safe in his own head. Prison is not going to solve the problem. It’s only going to make families not want to come forward when something’s wrong.”
Murray and Woods said they wanted to help Patterson with his mental condition, but now they worry other families in similar situations might not reach out to authorities.
Through tears, Murray contemplated the systems in place that could have helped her grandson.
“When you love someone unconditionally and know that they need help, where do you go? What do you do?” Murray asked. “He needs help. He doesn’t need to be taunted and made fun of — I wanted to save him.”
Help available for people having a mental health emergency
Govt. Laura Kelly on Thursday signed Senate Bill 19, bipartisan legislation that created a suicide and mental health hotline for Kansas residents. As a result, Kansans will soon be able to call 9-8-8 to receive support during a mental health emergency.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours a day, seven days per week.