Friday, September 13, 2013

Documents reveal mental health struggles of Airman Kelsey Anderson

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM

At the end of July, the Inlander published a story about the Idaho parents of Kelsey Anderson, a USAF Airman First Class who had been found dead in a bathroom stall two years earlier, shot with her own service pistol. They received a terse letter in the mail, informing them their daughter had apparently died due to a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.” But as the Andersons attempted to find out more about what happened to Kelsey, they were repeatedly stonewalled by an opaque military bureaucracy.

They hired Spokane Attorney Matt Crotty to help them find more about their daughter’s death. Bernie Fritz, a casualty assistance representative at Fairchild Air Force Base, also helped them search.

“[I wasn’t] 100 percent sure that Kelsey committed suicide on June 9, 2011. But if they can show me something that convinces me, I’ll accept that. I think somebody killed her or she killed herself over something horrible,” Sue Anderson said. “And besides, we can’t be the only people in America who are going through something like this. They just can’t keep doing this. Maybe we can stop it.”

A week before the Inlander published the story, however, the Andersons got a call from the Air Force chief of staff, telling them to expect answers sooner rather than later.

Now, the Associated Press reports, those answers have come.

Mental health concerns had been looming for some time for Kelsey. She was deeply unhappy with her assignment in Guam. Seeking an assignment closer to home, she told others that her mother had cancer, even though her mother didn’t. She’d been temporarily stripped of her weapon privileges. She was referred to counseling. She was put on suicide watch.

Now, the questions are less about what happened to Kelsey Anderson and more about how the Air Force responded. Why was her service revolver given back to her a month before she shot herself? Why weren’t her parents contacted? Why wasn’t she given more help?

“The girl was having problems,” Chris Anderson told the Associated Press. “She needed help.”

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters was a staff reporter for the Inlander from 2009 to 2023. He reported on a wide swath of topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.His work investigated deep flaws in the Washington...