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Neighbors say Shick acted bizarrely, taped angry notes to walls

| Saturday, March 10, 2012

Scott Kunst said the man living three doors down in Royal York Apartments on Bigelow Boulevard in Oakland made him nervous.

The man, whose name Kunst did not know until Friday, stared at neighbors while riding the elevator, often with glassy eyes, and would not respond to questions, he said.

"As soon as I heard someone shot people in Western Psych and I saw all the media and cops outside of our apartment building, I told my fiancee it had to be him who did it," Kunst said as police searched the neighbor's apartment.

"He was very odd, very weird. It's frightening to think that there are people living among us who are capable of doing that."

Pittsburgh police identified that neighbor, John Shick, 30, as the shooter in Thursday's attack in Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic who killed one person and wounded five. He used guns registered in Texas, police said, one of which someone had reported stolen. Two responding University of Pittsburgh police officers were injured.

Records show Shick lived a life of contrasts. Online records show he may have maintained a Northfield, Minn., address near the Carleton College campus from September 1999 to June 2004. That college's website shows a John Shick who majored in chemistry graduated in 2004, The Associated Press reported. From June 2004 through 2008, online records show Shick appeared to live in New York, where he may have attended Columbia University.

A 2005 Columbia alumni newsletter listed a 2004 graduate named John Shick as a new member. He requested that an online alumni directory block information about him.

Tal Malkin, an associate professor of computer science at New York's Columbia University, said Shick contacted her in November asking for a letter of recommendation for a graduate school application.

"I did not remember him, but it turns out we briefly interacted in 2003," Malkin wrote in an email. "We exchanged a couple of emails in November and that's that."

Shick temporarily changed his name in 2009 to Willim Hahnpere Scolskan while living in Portland, Ore. He moved to Pittsburgh in August, though authorities don't know why.

Police are investigating whether Shick was a patient at Western Psych and are trying to determine his motive.

UPMC officials declined to say whether Shick sought treatment at any of the health system's hospitals, citing privacy laws. They warned employees who deal with mental health patients not to discuss the shooting or to conduct unauthorized UPMC-owned computer record searches for names of the shooter or victims.

Inside Shick's fourth-floor apartment, police gathered evidence. Neighbors and investigators said Shick taped pieces of paper to the walls with names and details about people who angered him.

"People in the building just this week told me to try to stay away from him because he was behaving very bizarrely and was making people nervous," said Kunst's fiancee, Tracey Hilton. "He definitely acted like someone who had mental health issues."

Students and medical residents populate the building. Neighbors said Shick kept to himself; they didn't see visitors and he did not appear to leave regularly for a job.

He frequently taped notes to his front door that read: "Now Cleaning Up Vomit of Pancreatitis. Please Do Not Disturb." Neighbors heard screams at night and said a chemical odor often emanated from his apartment.

On Wednesday, Shick asked apartment managers to call 911 for him and vomited in the lobby before an ambulance took him away, Kunst said. Hilton said she saw Shick in the building about an hour later.

"That's really the last time I saw him," she said. "This is all very disturbing."

Before coming to Pittsburgh, Shick lived for three years in Portland. Reporters at the Oregonian newspaper discovered that Shick had changed his name to Willim Hahnpere Scolskan in 2009 and changed it back to Shick in late 2010. He wanted the name Kan William Hunpere Schols, according to a petition he filed.

On Dec. 28, 2009, authorities arrested a William M. Scolskan with Shick's date of birth and address on charges of assaulting a Port of Portland Police officer. Court records show dismissal of assault charges on Jan. 26, 2010, because prosecutors never filed the complaint.

According to the police report provided by the Port of Portland, three officers responded to a report of a man "exhibiting strange behavior" at Portland International Airport. The man, identified as Scolskan, tried to attack officers with a flashlight and then kicked one of them in the head and continued to struggle, despite a Taser blast "which had no effect."

He was taken into custody for a mental evaluation.

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