December 5, 2011: A rescue unit of the Laredo Fire Department is stationed at a side entrance to the Texas Health and Human Services Offices. A Texas woman who for months was unable to qualify for food stamps pulled a gun in a state welfare office and staged a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her shooting her two children before killing herself, officials said Tuesday.AP
Authorities say a 10-year-old boy shot by his mother during a standoff in a Texas welfare office on Monday has died.
Timothy and his sister, 12-year-old Raime Grimmer were both shot by their mother before she shot and killed herself.
The children's 38-year-old mother Rachelle Grimmer killed herself after staging a seven-hour standoff with police.
Raime, who died Wednesday, had posted chilling messages on Facebook during her mother's standoff with police after she was denied food stamps.
Ramie apparently posted "may die 2day" on her Facebook page during the standoff.
The children's grandmother spoke out Wednesday, describing her former daughter-in-law as having mental problems.
Mary Lee Shepherd said Rachelle Grimmer had problems beyond trying to feed her family.
"My son knew she was mentally ill and tried to get her help," said Shepherd, who lives in Helena, Mont.
Shepherd said her son Dale Grimmer was flying Wednesday from Montana to San Antonio to be with the children.
Dale and Rachelle Grimmer divorced six or seven years ago, after Rachelle and the children moved from Montana to Ohio, Shepherd said. Dale Grimmer also moved to Ohio and was able to visit the children from time to time, but Rachelle Grimmer moved and did not inform him or the court, Shepherd said.
Shepherd said she or her son contacted social workers in Montana twice and in Ohio once because they were concerned that Rachelle Grimmer could harm the children. Shepherd declined to detail her former daughter-in-law's mental problems or say what caused them to make those calls.
Shepherd's claims could not immediately be verified Wednesday with state child welfare officials in Montana and Ohio. However, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reported finding two cases Wednesday involving Grimmer and her children.
In the first case, reported Sept. 15, 2010, the department received a possible neglect report after Rachelle Grimmer and her two children were found living in a tent on a South Texas beach. Investigators found no evidence of neglect and closed the case, spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.
In a report made last June, Corpus Christi police said Rachelle Grimmer had come to police headquarters with her two children and reported that she had been a domestic violence victim. Caseworkers checked on her and the children, determined the children were not at risk and took no further action, Crimmins said.
The findings had been delayed until Wednesday because Grimmer's surname had been spelled differently in the department database, and she was listed under a different first name, Crimmins said.
The shooting took place at a Texas Department of Health and Human Services building in Laredo, where police said about 25 people were inside at the time. During the standoff, Rachelle Grimmer allegedly told police negotiators a litany of complaints against state and federal government agencies.
The woman first applied for food stamps in July but was denied because she didn't turn in enough information, Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said.
Goodman didn't know what Grimmer specifically failed to provide. In addition to completing an 18-page application, families seeking state benefits also must provide documents proving their information, such as proof of employment and residency.
"We were still waiting, and if we had that, I don't know if she would still qualify or not," Goodman said.
Goodman said Grimmer's last contact with the agency appeared to be a phone call in mid-November. When the family entered the Laredo office on Monday shortly before 5 p.m., Goodman said Grimmer asked to speak to a new caseworker, and not the one whom she worked with previously.
Shortly thereafter, Goodman said, Grimmer was taken to a private room to discuss her case. She said it was there the mother revealed a gun and the standoff began.
Police negotiators stayed on the phone with Grimmer throughout the evening, but she kept hanging up, Laredo police investigator Joe Baeza said.
Despite those complaints, Baeza said it wasn't clear what specifically triggered the standoff.
"This wasn't like a knee-jerk reaction," said Baeza, adding that Grimmer felt she was owed restitution of some sort.
Grimmer let a supervisor go unharmed around 7:45, but stayed inside the office with her children. After hanging up the phone around 11:45, police heard three shots, and police entered the building. Inside, they found Grimmer's body and her two wounded children.
The children were "very critical" and unconscious when taken from the scene, Baeza said.
Goodman credited an office supervisor, a 24-year veteran of the agency, for ensuring the release of the other employees.
"He had told her he would try to help her, and that if she would let everyone else leave, he would talk to her," Goodman said.
Grimmer also appeared to fall out of touch during her pursuit of food stamps. The mother originally applied July 7, but Goodman said Grimmer missed her first interview and didn't call back and reschedule for a few weeks. Her case was closed Aug. 8 for lack of a full application, Goodman said.
How much food stamp money a family receives depends on their income level. The average family on food stamps in Texas receives $294 a month.
Three months later, Grimmer called the agency's ombudsman Nov. 16 and requested a review of how her rejected case was handled. Goodman said the agency found that caseworkers acted appropriately after looking over Grimmer's file, and a supervisor called Grimmer's cell phone last Thursday to tell her the outcome. No one answered and the phone's voicemail box was full, Goodman said.
"The indications she had, she was dealing with a lot of issues," Goodman said.
State welfare offices have come under scrutiny in the past for being overburdened, but Goodman said the agency has made significant strides in the past three years. She said wait times are shorter, and that Grimmer was scheduled for her initial interview just one day after applying. Grimmer didn't make the appointment, she said.
Goodman said it's not unusual for caseworkers to confront angry or confused benefit-seekers, but that it's very rare for a situation to escalate to violence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.