Ex-Army Ranger gets 6-year sentence for shooting man in Tillicum

A former Army Ranger who shot a man in Tillicum while trying to steal his truck was suffering from a drug-induced psychosis at the time, the soldier argued at sentencing.

Jesse Suhanec, 23, pleaded guilty in October to two counts of attempted first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree assault, attempted residential burglary and attempted vehicle theft.

On Thursday, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Nelson sentenced Suhanec to six years, nine months in prison.

Suhanec’s mother, Lenore Suhanec, wrote the court that her son had been interested in the military from a young age, and that she was proud when he became a Ranger.

She said he was depressed after his second tour in Afghanistan, that a doctor on the base prescribed Adderall and that the drug caused him to lose touch with reality.

“He started acting strange and saying strange things,” she wrote. “I told him that I thought something was wrong. ... Little did we know that the drug he was given was pushing him into a deep psychosis.”

Many friends and family said Suhanec had been dedicated to the military, and that the Nov. 5, 2015, shooting was shockingly out of character. Suhanec since has been discharged.

An Army friend wrote the court that Suhanec told him after the shooting: “It’s like I went to sleep and woke up the next morning in jail.”

Deputy prosecutor Hugh Birgenheier said in court records that Suhanec’s prescription was for Ritalin and that Suhanec said he overdosed on it before the shooting in an attempt to kill himself.

But there was no evidence to verify that, Birgenheier said.

Charging papers give this account of the shooting:

Suhanec took a pistol from the armory where he worked at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Then he took the keys to an Army vehicle and left the base.

He went to Tillicum and tried to get a man to give him his truck. When the man refused, Suhanec shot him multiple times. The victim drove to a nearby fast-food restaurant and sounded the horn. He was found and taken to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Suhanec tried and failed to take other vehicles at gunpoint, and ended up covering himself in mud to avoid detection by a police dog.

Eventually, that made him so cold he turned himself in.

The man he shot, Kevin Anthony, wrote the court that he believed he was going to die from his wounds, and that his recovery has been difficult.

He said he had to abandon his goal of becoming an MRI technician, because bullets still in his body make it too dangerous for him to work with the equipment, which uses magnets.

But despite the horror he endured, Anthony said, he didn’t think a long sentence would help Suhanec, if he is ill.

“Our duty, today, is to get him the help he needs; the help the military should have seen that he needed and made sure he received,” Anthony wrote.

“I feel that he fell through the cracks and it all erupted in this incident. I believe we will both wear the extremely long-lasting scars of this and it is my hope that some day we both find peace.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell