About a year before Connor Sturgeon gunned down co-workers at Louisville's Old National Bank in April, some close to the 25-year-old knew he was having problems. He had abruptly turned away from companions during a family beach vacation and began walking into the ocean, later telling his parents he considered drowning himself. He had just started seeing a psychiatrist, and his parents thought his new medication might have been the cause of the suicidal thoughts. He had also experienced anxiety attacks at work, where some colleagues recall, he was falling short and frequently absent. His parents say nobody in Sturgeon’s circle knew that on April 4, amid his struggles, he had purchased a gun. His psychiatrist, who had met virtually on April 6 with Sturgeon and his parents, had indicated he was on the mend, Sturgeon’s parents recall. "We had been led to believe he was over the hump and he was getting better,” said his father, Todd Sturgeon.
On April 10, Sturgeon brought an AR-15 rifle into the bank branch where he worked and began shooting — killing five and wounding eight before being shot and killed by a police officer. Interviews with survivors, victims’ families and Sturgeon’s parents show frustration, sorrow and anger over how easy it was for someone with mental health problems to obtain a semiautomatic rifle built for mass violence. Six months after Sturgeon’s assault, those involved struggle to understand why Sturgeon took aim at his co-workers and whether it could have been prevented. Sturgeon’s personal and workplace difficulties point to a larger debate over whether the AR-15 and other similarly destructive weapons are too easy to get, especially for young men who gun industry critics say are often the targets of marketing campaigns built around masculinity, military imagery or sex appeal. The intersection of mental health and gun violence emerged as a flash point again after last week’s mass shootings in Maine, where the man suspected of killing 18 people had been hospitalized and received mental health treatment. In Louisville, some of Sturgeon’s surviving victims and family members of those killed are finalizing a lawsuit against Radical Firearms, the Texas company that produced the rifle Sturgeon used, an RF-15 that can be purchased for under $400.