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Airman recalls 1994 attack similar to Navy Yard shootings

Lessons must be learned, he says

Sep. 21, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Brown put an end to former Airman Dean Mellberg's killing spree in 1994 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., by shooting Mellberg with at least two rounds, one between the eyes. Brown was awarded the Airman's Medal for his action.
Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Brown put an end to former Airman Dean Mellberg's killing spree in 1994 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., by shooting Mellberg with at least two rounds, one between the eyes. Brown was awarded the Airman's Medal for his action. (Courtesy Andy Brown)
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Nineteen years before the mass shooting at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, another former service member killed five and injured many others in a similar attack at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

Not enough lessons have been learned to stop history from repeating itself, said the former security forces airman whose shots ended the Fairchild attack.

Andrew Brown was a senior airman assigned to security forces and working a bike patrol at Fairchild on June 20, 1994, when Dean Mellberg, a disgruntled former airman, came on base with an MAK-90 and went to the base hospital. Brown arrived and fired four shots from his 9mm pistol to kill Mellberg.

There are several parallels between the 1994 rampage and the one at the Navy Yard, Brown said. For one, red flags had been raised about both shooters’ pasts, but word did not get to who it needed to.

“Probably an individual agency has identified this person as a risk,” Brown said. “There is an institution or agency that could have acted to minimize the threat that either didn’t receive the information or failed to act on it.”

Mellberg had repeatedly been deemed unfit for duty before his attack. He had been discharged from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., but was never placed in a mental health institution.

Brown said he hopes there can be lessons learned after the Navy Yard attack. Co-workers have the ability to recognize warning signs and report them, he said. There needs to be an improved connection between law enforcement and the mental health community.

“With most of these perpetrators, there was a co-worker that was afraid of them; they have an intuition,” Brown said. “They need to voice that concern, and be empowered to act on it.”

In addition, the connection between law enforcement and the mental health community must improve, Brown said.

“We need to learn to identify these people before they act. It’s a multifaceted solution. It covers more than just gun control or security clearances,” he said.

Following his actions in the 1994 shooting, Brown was awarded the Airman’s Medal by President Clinton. He stayed in the Air Force until 1999 but struggled with post-traumatic stress. He sought help through the Veterans Affairs Department and has been able to stay in law enforcement, working with the Border Patrol in Spokane, Wash. His website, fairchildhospitalshooting.com, was created to remember the victims and the tragic events of that day.

“May the information contained on this site serve as a reminder that we must trust our intuition,” reads a passage under a photo of Brown in uniform.

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