Members of the Fillmore County SWAT team break open a door to a dentist's office Wednesday in Caledonia. Police said Randy Otterness of Mabel took a dentist hostage but released him unharmed before fatally shooting himself. CALEDONIA, Minn. (AP) -- The family of a man who shot and killed himself after taking his dentist hostage says he wanted to end the excruciating cluster headaches that had tormented him for the last five years.
The family members said Randy L. Otterness had talked about committing suicide for several months.
The 37-year-old Mabel electrician killed himself shortly after noon Wednesday after a 3-hour police standoff in this southeastern Minnesota town. He earlier freed the dentist, Mark Zard, unharmed.
Houston County Sheriff Dennis Swedberg said Otterness brought a suicide note with him and gave it to Zard.
``I am going to terminate myself today, based on years of thought and agony,'' said the note, written on a legal pad. ``I WILL die today, as a result of a cure for my illness.''
``He was getting headaches three times a day and at night,'' said Orvin Otterness, Randy's father, who was at the scene when he died. ``He couldn't even touch the hair on the side where it hurt him, because just touching the hair hurt like everything. He tried a lot of different doctors, and they couldn't do anything with him. Sometimes the headaches were so bad he couldn't see hardly more than a couple of feet ahead of him.''
Otterness' sister, Diane Otterness, said her brother had visited Zard, Mayo Clinic and several neurological experts many times in recent years seeking a remedy for the headaches, but he was unable to find a cure.
``There is just no relief for it. That's basically why he shot himself in the head,'' she said.
Otterness' body was found in one of Zard's exam rooms, where Otterness believed his pain had begun five years ago.
But Diane Otterness and Daryl Jensen, chief investigator for the Fillmore County Sheriff's Department, said Otterness never blamed Zard for the headaches, which occur when blood vessels in the brain swell. They said he merely wanted the dentist there when he died.
``I don't think he disliked Zard. I think he actually kind of respected him; he kind of befriended him,'' Jensen said. ``He tried to get Zard to help him with his cluster headaches. He never blamed Zard for anything he did.''
Diane Otterness said it was probably a coincidence that her brother began suffering the headaches after Zard performed extensive dental work on his mouth five years ago.
No one answered the phone at Zard's offices in Caledonia and Mabel, and his home phone was busy Wednesday.
Mabel Police Chief Leroy Kreager said the incident began Wednesday morning when Otterness took Zard hostage at Zard's Mabel office.
Kreager said Otterness, who was armed with two shotguns and a handgun, fired a shot outside the Mabel office that hit a man who was picking up trash nearby. Authorities said the garbage hauler, Doug DeWall of Caledonia, was not seriously hurt.
``It was meant to be a warning shot, but one of the pellets apparently wounded the individual in the arm,'' Kreager said.
Otterness and Zard then left town in Zard's car and drove to Zard's branch office in Caledonia, about 10 miles east of Mabel.
Zard was released within five minutes of their arrival, and Otterness stayed in the dental office for the next three hours, authorities said. About 25 officers surrounded the clinic and about six blocks in the town of 2,850 were evacuated, Swedberg said.
``We tried to talk to him. The hostage negotiating team talked to him an hour and a half off and on, almost had talked him out at one point, but he went back in,'' Swedberg said. ``From the beginning he was threatening suicide.''p