Sgt. John M. Russell, the U.S soldier suspected of killing five of his peers Monday at a military stress clinic in Iraq, sent his mother flowers for Mother's Day and was eager to return home. But he had informed his wife in early April that he was having a dispute with two superior officers and recently told her he was having the worst day of his life, the alleged shooter's father said today.
"When the military turned against him, he didn't have any recourse, I guess he thought his life was over," Wilburn Russell told ABC's WFAA. "He's going to lose his house, everything, his retirement. I guess he just broke. He didn't know how to ask for help."
The troubled soldier had just six weeks left in his third deployment. But he was reportedly having problems before the incident. He was taken against his will for treatment at the combat stress center due to concerns about his mental health.
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Five people were killed Monday and another four were injured at the very same stress clinic that ABC News visited just days before the shooting. Lt. Col. Beth Salisbury, who runs the clinic and gave ABC News a glimpse inside, was not hurt in the shooting, but two members of her clinical staff were killed, along with three soldiers awaiting treatment.
One of the clinical staff members who died was commander Charles K. Springle, who ABC News had met on its visit. Springle, a 52-year-old from North Carolina, treated soldiers for combat stress, anger management and suicidal tendencies. Springle was married 26 years and had a son and a daughter.
Today a military official provided more details about the shooting, explaining that Russell was disarmed last week. But on Monday he beat up a fellow soldier who took him for treatment and stole his weapon on their drive away from the clinic.
Russell then headed back to the stress center, the official said. The soldier who was forced from the car called military police to warn them to call the stress center, but the police arrived too late: They could hear the gunfire over the phone as they called ahead to warn others of the problem.
"We were as close as we could be -- ever since I was 2, he's been in the Army," Russell's 20-year-old son John said today.
"Everything seemed fine, no indication that he was having any problems," he added.
Weapons are routinely taken from people inside the Camp Liberty stress clinic, so those killed during the incident were not armed.
"Their weapons are taken for safety, and we secure those here for the safety of our staff and themselves," Salisbury recently told ABC News.
Centers like the stress clinic at Camp Liberty are part of a response to a dramatic spike in Army suicides, with a record 143 suicides last year alone.
A February 2008 study by the U.S. Army Medical Command found that male noncommissioned officers on their third or fourth deployments were more than twice as likely to be suffering from mental health issues than those on their first deployments.