Was Richard Russell Truly Suicidal? [VIDEO]
Was Richard Russell Truly Suicidal? [VIDEO]
We now know the name of the Seattle airport worker who took off in a Horizon jet and never returned. His name was Richard Russell, he was a baggage handler at Sea-Tac, and he was suicidal.
Or was he truly suicidal? After all, that’s what the media have been telling us, right?
It started with this tweet from the Pierce County, WA, sheriff after Russell took off in the jet:
Male is confirmed a suicidal male. Acted alone he is 29 year old Pierce county residence . We are working back ground on him now.
— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
The media ran with it. After all, an authority said he was suicidal, so it must be true, right?
Assumptions about Russell’s mental state grew legs on social media, too:
Listening to the audio recordings, I feel nothing but sadness for Rich, for the man who stole that plane at #SeaTac and committed suicide. He sounds like a broken man who needed help.
— Luke Adams 🎤 (@luketadams) August 11, 2018
I’m praying for #Rich tonight—not just the guy who stole a plane from #SeaTac, but every guy like Rich who (it seems…but I’ll admit I’m assuming a lot here) is suffering and cannot find a better way out. Here’s hoping that the next Rich crashes on a couch of a good listener.
— Joe (@htown_Joe) August 11, 2018
I’m not sure about this particular sheriff, but I suspect he’s not a psychologist. And for the record, neither am I. But as a speech pathologist, I can tell you that those of us who deal with people shouldn’t make snap judgments about diagnoses, like this sheriff did. It’s a big NO in my field.
I did learn some interesting things about Richard Russell, however, and they don’t indicate to me that this was a man in a dark place. Stupid place, perhaps, but not a morbid place.
We know, for example, that he was quiet and well-liked by his co-workers. A friend wrote on his Facebook page: “So heart broken . . . he was such a kind person to me. He would take my shifts if I needed.”
Russell was also a Christian, and met his wife in 2011 at a Campus Crusade for Christ rally at Southwestern Oregon Community College. After they married, they opened a bakery in Oregon, which the couple ran for three years.
Richard Russell was from Wasilla, Alaska, and longed to return to the state. However, his wife didn’t want to leave her family in the Pacific Northwest, so they sold the business and moved to Sumner, WA. As Russell explained on his Facebook page:
“We decided to sell and move in 2015, because we were both so far removed from our families. Failing to convince Hannah of Alaska’s greatness, we settled on Sumner because of its close proximity to her family. I, meanwhile, obtained a job working for Horizon Airlines (partnered with Alaska Airlines) so I’m able to fly to Alaska at my leisure.”
Here’s the final video that Richard Russell posted at YouTube. Does he seem like a man bent on suicide?
And there’s more:
“I’m down to 2100; I started at like 30-something.”
“Rich, you said you had 2100 pounds of fuel left?”
“Yeah – I don’t know what the burnage…is like on a takeoff but yeah. It’s burned quite a bit faster than I expected.”
Hmm, to me someone worrying about feeling lightheaded or about remaining fuel doesn’t seem like he’s intent on ending it all. Especially when he could have easily crashed the plane into Puget Sound right then and there.
Finally, there are these little tidbits.
For example, suicide by plane crash is extremely rare, according to industry experts. A recent example would be the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, where the pilot deliberately crashed the plane into the Alps. That pilot also took 144 passengers with him to their deaths. That’s a lot different than Richard Russell, who worried about not having enough fuel, and who said he “didn’t want to hurt no one.”
Now remember the Pierce County police chief, who tweeted that the pilot was “confirmed a suicidal male”? He later said this:
“This might have been a joyride gone terribly wrong.”
That’s what I’m suspecting, too.
This incident reminds me of other times when the media jumped onto a sensational story without digging into facts.
Remember what happened to Richard Jewell, the security guard whom the media had pretty much convicted of the bombings at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996? Or how the media in 2006 were positive that the wealthy white boys of the Duke University lacrosse team raped a black woman?
Most recently, an “expert” claimed that Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz had fetal alcohol syndrome. And she diagnosed him without having access to any of his medical records, either. You can google ‘Nikolas Cruz fetal alcohol syndrome’ and you’ll find plenty of other websites still peddling this, too.
Now it’s likely that we will never know why Richard Russell took off in that Horizon jet. Perhaps he really did come from a dark place that no one else knew about. But here’s another reason why when news stories like this happen, it’s best not to trust until you verify.