ONLY IN THE WORLD-HERALD
LINCOLN — Brian Lipari lost his father in 1977, when a mentally ill gunman sprayed six shotgun blasts into a crowded Omaha supper club.
So Lipari said he felt relieved Wednesday upon learning that the 69-year-old man who wielded the shotgun, Ulysses Cribbs, will almost certainly remain in a locked state psychiatric ward for at least the next year.
"Even though he's at an older age, he's still unpredictable," Lipari said. "That's the best place for him."
In late 2013, Cribbs was a candidate for transfer from the Lincoln Regional Center to a nursing home. But his condition has since worsened dramatically, said Dr. Klaus Hartmann, a forensic psychiatrist, in a letter filed late last week with the court.
"He is not able to consistently and insightfully discuss his schizophrenia in ways to prevent violence," Hartmann wrote. "He is not a fit subject for release into the community without 24 hour supervision as he is at a risk to become a dan-
ger to himself and others."
A hearing to formally determine Cribbs' status is scheduled for later this month.
Deputy Douglas County Attorney Jim Masteller called the psychiatrist's recommendations "appropriate" and said he will ask the judge to keep Cribbs at the regional center. Calls to Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley, who represents Cribbs, were not returned.
In 1977, Cribbs was a 32-year-old Vietnam War veteran who had repeatedly received inpatient treatment for mental illness by the military and later the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. His schizophrenia had been triggered by the trauma of his war experiences.
On Nov. 26, 1977, he walked into Omaha's Club 89, just as an audience of roughly 200 was settling in for an evening comedy performance. The six shots he fired killed one and left 25 injured.
Cribbs later told doctors he had seen "ghostlike figures" who he thought were his enemies from the war. A judge found him not responsible by reason of insanity, and the mental health board committed him to the regional center.
Under state law, Cribbs must be transferred to the least restrictive setting available if his condition improves and if he is deemed no longer mentally ill and dangerous. In 2009, Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk made such a determination and released Cribbs to live with his sister in Omaha.
Within a year of his release, Cribbs had been treated five times at the VA Medical Center. During his stays, he hit one fellow patient, slapped a woman during what may have been a psychotic delusion and overdosed on medication in an apparent suicide attempt. In early 2011, he was ordered back to the regional center.
Cribbs' mental illness has been overshadowed by dementia, which has caused memory loss and confusion, according to the psychiatrist's letter. Cribbs did not undergo a status review in 2014 because he was injured in a fall just days before the hearing was to be held.
His status hearing has been scheduled for April 27 before Judge Polk.
Killed in the long-ago shooting was Dennis Lipari, a 39-year-old Douglas County sheriff's captain and father of six who was celebrating an anniversary along with other deputies and their wives.
His wife, Ruth Lipari, was severely wounded. She lost sight in one eye, nearly all vision in the second and lived with more than two dozen shotgun pellets lodged in her body until her death about 10 years ago, Brian Lipari said.
Lipari, who now lives in the Kansas City area, said he was 5 years old when he was left fatherless. Keeping Cribbs under state supervision is the right approach, for Cribbs and for public safety, he said.
"Otherwise, I would have tried to fight it," he said.
Contact the writer:
"He is not a fit subject for release into the community without 24 hour supervision as he is at a risk to become a danger to himself and others."
Dr. Klaus Haitmann, a forensic psychiatrist