HAZARD, Ky. – A "disgruntled patient" shot his doctor to death Tuesday at a rural southeastern Kentucky health clinic and faces a murder charge, officials said.
John Combs, 46, shot Dr. Dennis Sandlin, of Delphia, late in the morning and left the clinic, said Kentucky State Police Trooper Tony Watts. Combs had been a patient of Sandlin's earlier in the day, returned with a gun and fired at the 57-year-old doctor, Watts said.
Combs was arrested at his home in the Redfox community in Knott County. Watts would not say what type of gun was used and did not know how many shots were fired at the Leatherwood-Blackey Medical Clinic.
Michael Caudill, CEO of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., which runs the clinic, described the shooter as "a disgruntled patient" but did not elaborate. Watts said police haven't determined what prompted the shooting.
Combs came to the clinic, saw Sandlin in the doctor's treating area, which is separate from the waiting room, and fired, Watts said. Patients were at the clinic at the time, but Watts did not know how many because they had cleared out by the time many police arrived.
The shooter left without harming anyone else, Caudill said. Watts said he had no knowledge of Combs pointing the gun at anyone else. An official at the Perry County Detention Facility did not think Combs had an attorney.
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo is a fellow physician in Perry County.
"He was a kind, big-hearted, gentle person," Mongiardo said of Sandlin. "He started a clinic in a rural part of Perry County, far away from where most doctors and clinics were. (He went) closer to where people needed health care. He was loved by his patients."
Joyce Fugate said she went to Sandlin for care some 18 years ago in nearby Hazard, where she lives, before he moved to the Blackey clinic.
"He was just a normal doctor. You'd go for your annual or whatever. You'd talk to him for a few minutes, then he'd say he was happy to answer any questions," Fugate recalled.
Kay Miller, manager of a Ponderosa restaurant in Hazard, said Sandlin was well-known in the area.
Caudill said employees were shocked by the death of Sandlin, who was well-liked and had worked as a primary care physician at the clinic since 1990.
"It's got us kind of back on our heels right now," Caudill said.
Sandlin graduated from the University of Louisville Medical School and had been a doctor in Kentucky since 1978. His license was in good standing with the state board. He concentrated his practice on older patients with chronic illnesses and was active in Hospice, Caudill said.
Mountain Comprehensive's Web site says the nonprofit corporation's clinic is one of the largest rural health centers in Kentucky.