Hostage taker in financial straits

GARDNERVILLE - Richard Curtis Mackey's mother said Monday he had talked of suicide for the past two to three months.

When she learned of her 38-year-old son's death on Friday at the Stratton Pharmacy along Highway 395 in Gardnerville, she was at home.

"He felt very down 'cause he lost a good job after the airlines (on Sept. 11)," Joan Mackey said. "He could never get back to earning half the wage he used to. He got mixed up in Xanax (a prescription antidepressant). This was a suicide he'd been planning for a long time."

Richard Mackey had talked all along about "death by cops" as part of his suicide plan, she said.

That seems to be what he hoped to happen Friday, but after an afternoon standoff, Mackey took his own life in a back room of the pharmacy at about 4:50 p.m.

Several people were held hostage by Mackey after he entered the store nearly an hour and a half before. The Crisis Negotiation Team from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office contacted him at the pharmacy and began talks.

Mackey told negotiators he was depressed over financial matters. He also said repeatedly that he did not want to harm anyone.

Hostage Anita Waffir, said she was face to face with Mackey right before he took his life.

"I'm crying, he's crying," she said. "I was just watching the tears come down his face. ... Then there was just this thunder, not even like footsteps there were so many of them, such a commotion that when he heard it, he turned around, walked over there, and took his life," she said.

Mackey used a .45-caliber gun he had taken from a Gardnerville weapons store during the hostage crisis. Posing as a customer at Wayne's Gun & Pawn, Mackey reportedly asked to see a shotgun then produced shells from his pocket, loaded the gun, and told the clerk to remove a .45-caliber pistol from the counter, according to the sheriff's report

He reportedly told the clerk he was headed to the Carson Valley Pharmacy to rob them of cash and prescription medications.

He told pharmacist Dan Stratton that he wanted to take pills "and then go out and take his life," Stratton said.

"He wanted to know where he could do it," Stratton said. "He didn't want to hassle the store. He was concerned about us having to open up the next day. He told us that nobody was going to get hurt."

One hostage was released to bring Mackey cigarettes. He let two others go.

Stratton tried to take Mackey out a back door. But he said Mackey saw deputies surrounding the location and went back inside to take hostages.

About 4:50 p.m., Mackey took his life with the pistol.

A medical examination was performed Saturday on Mackey. The cause of death was listed as a single gunshot wound to the head.

"He was such a loving person," his mother said. "If he could apologize now to the people of the center, he would."

According to the sheriff's office, Mackey's motivation may never be understood.

"It is known that he suffered deep depression, was experiencing financial difficulty, and most recently had a history of mental health issues," said Sgt. Tom Mezzetta of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.


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