Parents of Western Psych shooter write blog post about son’s death

By Gwenn Barney

In a post on their sailing-themed blog, Susan and Larry Shick retell the events surrounding the… In a post on their sailing-themed blog, Susan and Larry Shick retell the events surrounding the day they learned of their son’s death.

Titled “The Death of John Shick (March, 2012),” the post explains that the Shicks first learned about their son’s death when they called the Medical Examiner’s Office in Pittsburgh using a number given to them by the U.S. Coast Guard. At the time, their boat was stationed in the Bahamas.

On March 8, John F. Shick, 30, entered the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland with two semiautomatics. He killed one person and injured five others before a Pitt police officer brought him down.

“It didn’t take much clairvoyance to guess that the person we were about to call would not be holding good news. To the extent that we thought about it, perhaps we speculated that John had gotten into some minor legal trouble,” the Shicks wrote in the post.

“We didn’t wake up to what a ‘Medical Examiner’ does before the investigator informed us that John had been killed two days earlier, shot to death by police in the midst of an armed rampage. In his shock, all Larry did to signal to Susan was to draw a finger across his throat. The investigator was very apologetic at having to deliver the information in such a bald manner, but it wasn’t as though they were able to fly someone down to the Bahamas to deliver the news.”

The Shicks said in the blog that authorities knew to contact them via the Coast Guard after a UPMC doctor who had treated John recognized the deceased Shick and told officials his parents were at sea.

The Shicks apologized to their relatives who offered condolences by telephone, email and on their website.

“We also send our regrets to our relatives, and relatives of relatives, who got caught up in the media frenzy,” the post said.

The Shicks said they did not hurry back to America after hearing the news because police had secured John’s apartment and the Medical Examiner told them John’s body could be kept in a freezer until funeral arrangements were made.

“The effect of all of this was that there was no reason to hurry back to the States to take care of matters — certainly John wasn’t going anywhere, and until the police released his apartment, we couldn’t close down matters there. So we decided to continue with our planned trip and work our way back to the States as we could.”

The Shicks returned to America in mid-April, and, upon their return, Susan flew to Pittsburgh, while Larry continued doing maintenance on their boat at Port Canaveral, Florida.

The Shicks reflected on their relationship with John, but it doesn’t mention any details about his life or upbringing.

“We hoped and expected that John would grow up happy, healthy, smart, and successful. We had become attached to that expectation, forgot that life is uncertain, and when things did not work out as we hoped and expected, our mental habits piled extra suffering on top of the natural pain of seeing a man not live up to his potential,” they wrote.

Toward the end of the post, which does not make a single mention of the victims’ names, they conjectured on what led John to take the actions he did on March 8.

“John died in a horrible way. In our view he chose an elaborate way of committing suicide. We think that he suffered from exhaustion, struggling for a small bit of a normal life but not being able to capture it. It does not take away from the horror of his means of death, nor the horror he inflicted on others, to observe that he got to choose the way he died, and that he died quickly, which are gifts given to few.”

The blog post concludes with the parents describing how they spread their son’s ashes on May 5 off the coast of Cumberland Island, Georgia, following a brief memorial service.

“May he find in death the peace he did not find in life,” the final sentence reads.