Death in the afternoon
On the early afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 13, Monica Ritchey, 45, was depressed. Among other things, she was concerned about a police warrant and the possible loss of spending time with her grandchildren, according to police reports. Her daughter Brittnie Andrews said a lot of things weren’t going right for her and, “She was just done.” She was drinking alcohol and taking prescription medications, which had been prescribed for mental issues like depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Andrews speculates that the PTSD may have originated with the death of a daughter after surgery a few years ago, but she said there were other factors, like a divorce.
“She said, ’I don’t want to do this anymore, I just want to blow my head off,’” Andrews said. “This was ’normal’ when she was depressed. She’d call and say these things, and I knew she had guns at the house. … This time I felt like something was really wrong. So I called my sister [Darcie Latham].”
When the daughters entered the home on Woodhaven Lane in Sparks, things were already out of control.
“She was all the way across the room—and she said, ’Don’t come any closer. If you come any closer, I’m going to blow my head off.”
She fired a .22 caliber pistol into the floor just to show she was serious. The sisters went outside and called 911. By the time police had arrived, Ritchey had switched handguns to a .38.
After police arrived, it was a matter of minutes before Ritchey shot Latham in the hip, and officers returned fire, mortally wounding Ritchey. Latham survived. [Editor’s note: This story is developing, and Darcie Latham’s attorney, Richard A. Salvatore, alleges that police—not Ritchey—shot Latham.]
It’s a scenario that has played out more often than most would imagine in the Truckee Meadows. Three out of four people killed by police in Washoe County in 2013 were suffering from mental illness. The issue of police response to mentally ill people will be discussed in-depth later in this series. There’s no question that once the shooting began, police were forced to stop Ritchey—their lives and the lives of others were incontrovertibly in danger. Indeed, when the bullet took Latham down, officers shielded her with their bodies from further fire.
Andrews doesn’t blame the police for her mother’s death: “I kind of have mixed emotions. It sucks. I don’t know; I feel like maybe they could have talked her down, but she had a gun out.”
She is, though, disappointed in the amount of time the investigation has gone on with no word from authorities. Andrews is also direct about why she would talk to a member of the media.
“I don’t like the fact that nobody [in the media] has followed up on it,” she said. “They just pushed it aside. They don’t want anybody to know that [Sparks police] killed somebody.”
The incident remains under investigation by the Reno Police Department.