By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Army Reservist James E. Dean had already served 18 months in Afghanistan when he was notified three weeks ago that he would be deployed to Iraq later this month. The prospect of returning to war sent the St. Mary's County resident into a spiral of depression, a neighbor said.
Despondent about his orders, Dean barricaded himself inside his father's home with several weapons on Christmas, threatening to kill himself. After a 14-hour standoff with authorities, Dean was killed yesterday by a police officer after he aimed a gun at another officer, police said.
Wanda Matthews, who lives next door to Dean's father and said she thought of the younger man as a son, described him as a "very good boy."
"His dad told me that he didn't want to go to war," Matthews said. "He had already been out there and didn't want to go again."
Dean, 29, was shot once after a confrontation with officers that began when a member of Dean's family asked police to check on him about 10 p.m. Monday, police said. Dean stated his intention to kill himself several times late that night and yesterday morning and had fired at officers multiple times, St. Mary's County Sheriff Tim Cameron said. A handful of bullets hit police cars, but no officers were injured.
Cameron said special law enforcement units spent the night trying to negotiate with Dean to come out of the house.
"He was asked to come out and refused repeatedly," Cameron said. "We threw a phone in the window and he threw it back out."
About noon, tactical teams from the Maryland State Police and St. Mary's, Calvert and Charles county sheriffs' offices began pumping tear gas into the home to force Dean out, Cameron said.
Police said Dean stepped outside his front door and pointed a firearm at an officer. Another officer on the scene, believing his colleague was in danger, shot Dean in the chest, they said.
Cameron did not reveal the department affiliation of the officer who shot Dean. The St. Mary's County Bureau of Criminal Investigations, which comprises officers from the sheriff's office and state police, will investigate the shooting, he said.
Dean's father, Joseph L. Dean Jr., was not home during the standoff, authorities said, and his phone number had been disconnected yesterday afternoon. Neighbors were evacuated from the surrounding homes when police responded to the scene.
Matthews said Dean enjoyed hunting and fishing but had lost much of his enthusiasm for life when he found out that he was being deployed to Iraq. She said that she had not spoken to him since he was notified but that his father was extremely worried about Dean. "He was a good country boy," she said.
Staff researcher Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.