Maryland police officer James Stirkens lost his family in particularly devastating circumstances. The man’s son was stabbing his wife to death with a pair of gardening shears when Stirkens stepped in— shooting and killing him.
Christopher Strikens, 25, inflicted multiple vicious stab wounds on his mother, Denise Strickens, 53, in the family’s Gaithersburg home, CBS DC reported. Off-duty at the time, James Stirkens shot his son in an effort to stop him. His son died before the emergency crew arrived, while his wife perished at the hospital.
According to the Washington Post, Christopher Stirkens had previously had a couple of drug-related brushes with the law. Neighbor Vida Collison said she suspected Christopher might be a “problem to the family” and that her son, who attended school with Christopher, felt the same way. But there was nothing in his history to suggest an inclination towards violence.
The news was a shock to the whole neighborhood.
“These are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. They’re very talkative, very supportive of this neighborhood,” another neighbor, Billy Waclchalk, told CBS DC. “We’re devastated by it.”
Now the Stirkens family is coping with both losses—one at the hand of another family member.
“My family is broken and it will never be the same,” Stirkens’s daughter Tiana wrote in a Facebook post. “I will never be the same.”
Both Stirkens girls live away from home, and neither was present at the time of the incident, according to CNN.
“It’s a tragic situation, unimaginable,” said Montgomery County Police Capt. Jim Daly, who did not know the reason for the domestic dispute turned violent.
Daly told the Washington Post that detectives are looking into the possibility of mental illness as they piece together Christopher Stirken’s motive.
James Stirkens, a patrol sergeant who has worked for the Montgomery County Police Department for 27 years, has been placed on routine administrative leave. No charges have been filed.