ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The man who killed six people before committing suicide in Minnesota's most deadly workplace shooting began his slide into mental illness around his senior year of high school when he withdrew from his family, friends and his studies, his parents said.
Andrew Engeldinger, 36, of Minneapolis, had been a happy child growing up. But his condition worsened from depression into what relatives believe was schizophrenia long before he went on the rampage last month, his parents told Minnesota Public Radio in an interview that aired Tuesday (http://bit.ly/RyiO3b ).
"I think that what happened was that his senior year, you could see that he was gone, it almost looked like maybe he was on drugs," said his father, Chuck Engeldinger. "We didn't know, but you could see it in his eyes, kind of a lost look, a glazed look. He didn't have the happy smiles or anything. He didn't get good grades in school and he was such a high achiever. Earlier on, his circle of friends got smaller, he just didn't have a lot of ambition anymore. He just dwindled."
Chuck Engeldinger and his wife, Carolyn, said they tried for years to persuade their son to seek psychiatric help, but he refused. They said they were legally powerless to have him committed because he was an adult and had never been violent — until Accent Signage Systems fired him Sept. 27 for lateness and poor performance.
The parents said they believe he had schizophrenia, though he never submitted to being diagnosed, because Carolyn Engeldinger's mother was diagnosed with it and his behavior was just like hers.
"The person he became bore no resemblance to the son we knew and raised," Carolyn Engeldinger said. "He was never violent, just a normal little kid who brought us a lot of joy."
A doctor diagnosed Andrew Engeldinger with depression around his senior year, they said, but he stopped taking his medication within a few weeks. He started displaying paranoia a couple years later, his father said.
"He had this delusion of some giant conspiracy that involved the government, the FBI, the police, people at work, people on the street. It involved everybody," Carolyn Engeldinger said.
And he was angry with his parents for not believing him, his father said.
"His delusions and hallucinations became the only thing he talked about, and they were so extreme, and he'd come into the house and immediately go to the curtains and look out and see who might be following him," Carolyn Engeldinger said.
Yet he never became violent before the shootings, they said. He was functioning well enough to have a house and his job. His parents took coping classes from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But they said they had no power to get him committed because he was over 18.
"Unless he proved to be a danger to himself or others, there was nothing we could do," Carolyn Engeldinger said.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.