Rachelle Grimmer first applied for food stamps from the state of Texas in July, only to be turned down for lack of information. On Tuesday, she applied again at the Health and Human Services department in Laredo, where she had moved eight months ago from Zanesville, Ohio, and was again denied — and she then pulled out a gun and started a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her killing herself and shooting her 10-year-old son Timothy and her 12-year-old daughter Ramie. Both children are in “very critical condition.”
Grimmer and her two children had entered the Texas Department of Heath and Human Services building in Laredo around 5:00 pm on Tuesday. About 25 people were in the building. Grimmer asked to speak to a different caseworker than she had before and was taken to a private room where she revealed she had a gun. She was on and off the phone with police negotiators for several hours but kept hanging up the phone. At 7:45 pm, she released the supervisor she had held hostage. At 11:45 pm, police heard three shots. A SWAT team entered the building and found Grimmer dead of a self-inflicted wound and her two children critically injured.
While speaking to police negotiators, Grimmer described a “litany of complaints against state and federal government agencies” and seemed to feel “she was owed restitution of some sort.”
In Texas, people seeking assistance for food stamps must fill out an 18-page application. Under Governor Rick Perry, a record 3.7 million Texans now receive food stamps; about 15 percent people are now in the program, with 1.4 million having only started receiving food stamps in the past four years.
A state auditor’s report found that between 2006 and 2010, the percentage of food stamp applications processed within the 30 day mandatory period dropped from 92 percent to 65 percent. About 50 individuals and five nonprofit organizations are suing (PDF) the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, claiming that the process is illegally denying benefits to Texans.
Texas currently ranks 39th in accessibility to food assistance for low-income communities, a figure that is actually an improvement from previous years.
Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said that they were “still waiting” for Grimmer’s application and submission of documents as proof. Even had she provided these, Goodman noted that she did not “know if she would qualify or not.”
On an update to her Facebook page that she apparently made during the standoff, Grimmer had posted “tear gas seriously,” to which Nancy Harrop, her grandmother, had responded “i’m here for you guys. no reason to be afraid.” Grimmer had listed “may die 2day” as her occupation: Was she not asking for help that she never got?
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