I was surprised to hear that the man offered to talk about his son, who had been shot dead by police in April.
Lowell Holmgren, 86, had called my paper, the Rapid City Journal, in May. He said his youngest son, Tim, had been suffering from bipolar disorder when he pointed a gun at police and threatened a mass shooting at his apartment complex in Rapid City.
Tim, 53, turned out to have been wielding a pellet gun, which resembled a real semi-automatic handgun. No explosives were found in Tim’s apartment, contrary to his claims.
Lowell wanted the public to know the dangers of bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, and that it is imperative to seek professional help.
We spoke in his house for almost two hours. He showed me family photos and talked about Tim’s career accomplishments, including as a public relations executive and journalist.
He also talked about the signs that revealed his son’s mental illness.
Because of Lowell, Tim’s widow, Kathy, agreed to meet me.
The first time we talked, in the apartment she began renting after Tim’s death, Kathy seemed apprehensive about speaking to a reporter. While I interviewed her at the dining table, a niece of hers sat in the living room, listening to our conversation, ready to intervene and protect.
Kathy talked about meeting Tim in college and being happily married to him for 28 years. She described a successful man and loving husband who couldn’t find the treatment he needed, until mental illness turned him into a person she no longer recognized.
Both Lowell and Kathy said they don’t blame the police in Tim’s death.
The story, Man killed in officer-involved shooting struggled with mental illness, was published June 11.
I discussed the work that went behind it in the first episode of my paper’s newly launched podcast, Journal Storytellers.
You can listen to it below. (Fellow reporter Seth Tupper also talked about climbing the eight highest peaks in South Dakota.)
Update: The Journal Storytellers podcasts are now available on iTunes.