HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- A man suffering with severe mental illness stockpiled homemade weapons
as he threatened to kill people, 9Wants to Know has learned.
A search warrant obtained by 9Wants to Know shows investigators found
boxes of ammunition, hand guns, sniper suits, gun building parts,
tactical clothing, rifles and a "welded AK-47 long gun" in Richard
Lancaster may have ordered some of the ammunition and gun parts from
websites while living in his mother's basement, according to the
The court documents charging Lancaster, 26, paint a story of a mother
who struggled to get her son long-term treatment before she became a
victim herself and eventually turned to police for help.
RELATED | New information released about Sandy Hook shooter
RELATED | Ga. mother battles with her son's mental illness
"This is one of those cases where you see all the risk signs, and it
becomes obvious if somebody doesn't do something, something terrible is
going to happen," said Dr. Max Wachtel, a Denver criminal forensic
Dr. Wachtel, who evaluates people who suffer with mental illness, reviewed the court documents for analysis on 9NEWS.
"This was a time-bomb waiting to go off," he said.
Dr. Wacthel said the Lancaster case is an extremely rare incident where someone diagnosed with schizophrenia turns violent.
Lancaster is facing three felony charges, including menacing and two
counts of attempting to possess a dangerous weapon. The charging
documents refer to a "machine gun."
Court records accuse Lancaster of making a homemade spear and pointing
it at his mother's chest. Lancaster also threatened to "kill people
if they tried to take him to the mental hospital again," according to
statements made by Lancaster's twin brother.
"This is the kind of case you end up reading about in the national
news," Dr. Wachtel said. "He could have killed his mom or brother, and
he could have had the delusion other people were out to get him. He
could have driven to a mall or school."
Mother's Struggle to Get Help
The search warrant and probable cause statement document the mother's
repeated struggle to get Lancaster long-term mental health care at
various mental health facilities in Colorado. But because he is an
adult, Lancaster's mother was powerless to keep him in treatment and
could not get access to his medical records, the documents indicate.
"He was admitted to several other hospitals," the documents say. "But
each time he was released. He would fall into a behavioral pattern of
The records show Lancaster also spent time at the state's hospital in Pueblo.
"This guy doesn't sound like a criminal. He sounds like he's a person really struggling with mental illness," Wachtel said.
"Over the last few years, Richard has been ordering packages over the
internet but [his mother] was not allowed to see what was in them," the
documents say. Lancaster didn't allow his mother to enter the basement,
according to the records, and often made threats against her while
calling her derogatory names.
After repeated efforts to get her son long-term treatment, the documents
indicate Lancaster's mother turned to detectives with the Douglas
County Sheriff's Department for help.
He was arrested in August and is currently in the Douglas County Detention Center under a $500,000 bond.
"Many times that's the only way to get the attention someone needs is to
run them through the police," said Scott Glaser, the executive director
for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Colorado. "The system is
sometimes full. The system doesn't have room. Sometimes they will try
to treat them but release them before they received adequate or
Glaser wanted to stress with 9NEWS that such cases like Lancaster's are extraordinarily rare.
Mental Illness and Weapons
It is unknown if Lancaster was able to legally buy guns or if any past
psychiatric holds would have prevented him from buying a firearm.
Dr. Wacthel said there have been cases where psychiatric history is not passed on to the FBI for gun background checks.
According to Lancaster's twin brother's statements to detectives,
Lancaster "has tried to acquire weapons through both legal and illegal
means" and that he has "bought decommissioned firearms from online
retailers and also ammunition."
A background check of his court record and criminal history in Colorado
does not reveal any prior felony convictions that would have prevented
Lancaster from legally owning a gun.
Lancaster's mother declined an interview with 9Wants to Know while
saying she doesn't want to hurt her son's case so he can get the best
Another Mother's Story
While Lancaster's mother declined to comment for this story, another
mother who is facing a similar situation agreed to talk with 9Wants to
Know about the trials with her son.
"You know I hear these stories of these shootings, these mass attacks; it's unreal that I would relate with the parent of a shooter," Paula Petty said.
Petty is the mother of a 19-year-old son who is suffering with several
mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. She said he gets
angry and violent and will sometimes self-medicate with marijuana
because of a lack of treatment and care.
In December, she called police on her son believing he was high on a
stimulant. He was taken to the hospital where it was later determined he
was suffering with a mental breakdown and didn't have any other drugs
in his system, according to Petty.
The hospital released him, according to Petty, without notifying her.
"They took him to the hospital and kicked him right out the next morning. He had no clothes, no shoes, nothing," she said.
The hospital, because of patient privacy laws, wouldn't disclose her son's treatment and why he was released.
Petty said it's difficult to get care and treatment for her son because
he is an adult. Applying for Medicaid and disability has been difficult
and getting coverage has been a challenge, she said.
"But now that he's an adult, and if he refuses to do something, there's a not a lot I can do about it," Petty said.
(9News, KUSA, Denver)