Ky. doctor shot to death by patient

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by AP

WHAS11.com

Posted on December 9, 2009 at 9:03 AM

 

CORNETTSVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A patient who made threats after being denied narcotics at a rural Kentucky clinic returned and shot his doctor to death, police said.

John Combs, 46, is charged with murder in Tuesday's slaying of Dr. Dennis Sandlin, Kentucky State Police Trooper Tony Watts said. Combs had been a patient of Sandlin's earlier in the day, returned with a gun and fired at the 57-year-old doctor, Watts said.

Watts said police don't yet have a motive. A Perry County sheriff's deputy said Combs had asked for narcotics but was required to give a urine sample, which he refused to do.

"From that point, he got real angry, he just went crazy, and he made a threat he was going to come back and blow up the building," Sam Mullins, who responded when the clinic called about the threat, said.

Combs was arrested at his home in the Redfox community in Knott County. Watts would not say what type of gun was used and did not know how many shots were fired at the Leatherwood-Blackey Medical Clinic in the southeastern area of the state.

Clinic officials didn't want to press charges, Mullins said, so the deputy left.

"They didn't think he was going to follow through," he said. "I asked did they want to press charges, because it was a terroristic threat, a very serious one. We see threats all the time. This is one of those occasions, someone followed through with a threat."

Michael Caudill, CEO of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., which runs the country clinic, described the shooter as "a disgruntled patient" but did not elaborate. An official at the Perry County Detention Facility did not think Combs had an attorney.

After the shooting, state police took over the investigation, Mullins said.

Combs spotted Sandlin in the doctor's treating area, which is separate from the waiting room, and fired, Watts said. Patients were at the clinic, but Watts did not know how many because they had cleared out by the time police arrived.

Watts said he had no knowledge of Combs pointing the gun at anyone else.

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, also a physician in Perry County, knew Sandlin.

He said if the killing had to do with the doctor refusing to give the patient prescription pills then "this drug problem is tearing the fabric of our communities, of our society, and I'm angry."

"Now it's impacting a place where you expect to be safe, and that's a doctor's office," he said.

About two months ago, officials in eastern Kentucky arrested hundreds of people accused of selling illegal prescription drugs, a problem in the area.

Caudill said employees were shocked by the death of the well-liked Sandlin, who had worked as a primary care physician at the clinic since 1990.

"It's got us kind of back on our heels right now," Caudill said.

Mongiardo called Sandlin, "a kind, big-hearted, gentle person."

"He started a clinic in a rural part of Perry County, far away from where most doctors and clinics were," Mongiardo said. "(He went) closer to where people needed health care. He was loved by his patients."

Sandlin graduated from the University of Louisville medical school and had been a doctor in Kentucky since 1978. His practice focused on older patients with chronic illnesses and he was active in Hospice, Caudill said.

Mountain Comprehensive's Web site says the nonprofit corporation's clinic is one of the largest rural health centers in Kentucky.

About an hour after the shooting, Kathy Haney came on duty as night manager at Ramey's BP gas station and convenience store a few blocks from the clinic.

"I've had grown men stand here in tears," Haney said of customers. "I've had people tell me, 'He helped my mother stay alive for 30 years.' It's been the talk of the store all day long."

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Associated Press Writers Beth Campbell, Brett Barrouquere and Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Roger Alford in Frankfort, and Joe Edwards in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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