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Sister of ax-wielding man opens up about his ‘internal battles’

Posted at 4:03 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-27 20:05:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. – The younger sister of the 23-year-old Chesterfield County man fatally shot after he charged police with a small ax released an emotional letter on behalf of the family.

In his walk around downtown Richmond on Tuesday morning, Alex Schoessel wore a kilt and carried a knife and small ax. Multiple people reported that he looked angry, and was talking to himself.

Police located him near 3rd Street Diner about 30 minutes after emergency calls were placed around the city. Schoessel did not surrender his weapons, police said, and he charged at them after a Taser was used on him.

Schoessel's family declined to talk on camera and said they are having a tough time processing the loss. Robert Schoessel said that this was not the son they raised and that the family was extremely heartbroken and still in shock.

In Victoria Schoessel’s statement (scroll below to read in its entirety) she expressed admiration for her older sibling, and said that even as they grew older – and apart – music remained a connection.

She acknowledged that underneath his kindness and intelligence, her brother fought battles, from mental illness to drugs. She also said that she believes he used police as an escape and apologized for the position he put them in. She also thanked the police for keeping others safe from her brother.

Her entire statement is below.

“Growing up, to me Alex was a big part of my life. As my big brother, I, of course, wanted to be just like him. He was and has always been one of the smartest people I’ve known. He had a passion for reading and history and he could retain almost everything he read. Alex was a kind-hearted boy, but struggled to show that at times.

As we grew older our biggest connection was music. While I don’t claim that he had the best voice around, making harmonies with him was our friendship. He was philosophical and thought deeply about things, all the while being too quick to act at times.

Relating to others was never an easy task for him, but I believe he saw things in ways that we can’t. He never failed to see the beauty of the past and his heritage and brought that into his everyday life. Alex helped me to appreciate our history and I’ll never forget his lesson and example of knowing and learning to the fullest.

He had many passions growing up and I’m privileged as his sister to have been a part of them. Some of you may be thinking then, if this is true, why did this happen?

While Alex was kind, and smart he had a lot of internal battles he was fighting. From mental illness to drugs, I think that in his mind he had suited up to go into battle. I can’t be sure what he was thinking leading up to all of this.

But I think he was tired, and hurt, and lost. To me, he used the police as an escape, a way out of his mind that he had been trapped in.

I want him to be remembered for who he really was, but I also want people to know his suffering and what led him to act in this way.

I want to thank the police officers involved that responded for keeping him from hurting anybody else, except for himself. I am so sorry that he put them in a position with only one out, but I believe that is what he wanted in those moments. Hopefully, this can help those reading this to understand. All of us, his mother, father, family and friends love and miss him.

Police Chief offers support for officers

Both of the officers who fired their guns during a confrontation with a man in downtown Richmond had recently joined the Richmond Police Department and were undergoing field training.

Nicholas Pechstein, 28,  and Joshua Sanborn, 24, were members of the 114th basic recruit class that graduated in June 2017. They were sworn in at a ceremony that took place at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

This recruit class received more training than usual, with an extra week added to the traditional 30-week training schedule to accommodate an expanded curriculum that included community engagement experiences in public housing communities, city schools and homeless shelters.

Both Pechstein and Sanborn were in the midst of completing eight weeks of field training at the time of Tuesday’s fatal shooting. This type of training pairs a rookie with a more experienced officer.

The officer that was injured by friendly fire was John Rotondi, 43, a patrol officer with 12 years of service.

Chief Alfred Durham said that from all the information he has gathered so far, he believes the two officers behaved with the utmost professionalism and courage and exercised restraint before they were forced to shoot at the suspect.

“I am grateful that Officer Rotondi was not seriously wounded,” Chief Durham said. “He is a fine officer – one we rely on to train our newer officers so they learn the proper way to do the job.”