Friday, July 09, 2010

“He was sick a lot. He suffered a lot,” RIP Brother

Veteran killed in Togus standoff struggled with illness

State police search a truck registered to James Popkowski of Grindstone, who was shot in an armed confrontation Thursday, July 8 in Augusta.

AUGUSTA, Maine 7/8/10 — Maine law enforcement officers killed an armed former U.S. Marine from Grindstone on Thursday near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Togus. The shooting occurred just hours, neighbors said, after he posted a sign implying that doctors were killing him by denying him stem-cell medicine.

James F. Popkowski, 37, a Togus patient, was shot during an armed confrontation with VA police Officer Thomas Park and Maine Warden Service Officer Joey Lefebrve and Sgt. Ron Dunham in woods off Route 17 shortly after 9 a.m., Maine State Attorney General’s Office officials said.


Popkowski joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990. In 2003, the first lieutenant was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer called hepatosplenic gamma-delta T-cell lymphoma. Neighbors said it was commonly known that Popkowski was honorably discharged due to his medical condition.

“He was sick a lot. He suffered a lot,” said Ellen Van Dine, a Grindstone Road resident who with her husband occasionally would see and dine with Popkowski. “When he got sick, he was really in pain, and it would make him tired a lot, yet he was always very considerate and kind.”

In 2008, Popkowski wrote at length about his battle against depression and suicidal thoughts in an online response to an article in New Scientist magazine about the complications of certain stem cell transplant procedures. He also indicated that he had been denied or had lost his veterans benefits.

“Suicide is like a little devil, always on my shoulder and always tempting me. Concern for the care of my three dogs after I am gone, my dogs being the only things I feel anything that resembles passion for, is the only thing I think that has kept me from pulling the trigger on the loaded pistol, which rests next to my pillow,” he wrote.


Popkowski described himself as “a rather stoic person” who before his illness was not prone to moodiness. He said he believed his severe and ongoing depression was rooted in “something or some imbalance in my nervous system created by the GVHD.” When the condition was being treated with steroids, he said, “depression was not an issue. As soon as the [steroid treatment] was stopped the depression came on like a freight train.”

Attempts to treat the depression with more than a dozen antidepressant medications were unsuccessful, Popkowski wrote. Continued

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