Police in Oregon Break Door in Suicide Kit Scare

When the FBI notified police in Oregon that a Springfield man had purchased a mail-order suicide kit, officers went straight to his home and kicked down the door to make sure he was OK.

He was. At the time, he was at work at the Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, where the helium-hood kit was purchased as part of research for a story published months ago.

Reporter Randi Bjornstad said she asked a colleague in February to order it from a Southern California company called The Gladd Group -- not wanting to raise red flags that could prevent her from obtaining a kit if she were identified as a reporter. Her story was published in March.

In a story Wednesday (http://bit.ly/prULE1 ), the newspaper didn't identify the colleague, saying he cited privacy concerns and agreed to be interviewed only if his name were not used.

Sales of such devices have since been outlawed in Oregon. In December, a 29-year-old Eugene man committed suicide using one of the $60 kits.

The Springfield police said they assumed the alert from the FBI on Tuesday required a quick response.

"Nowhere in this teletype does it say that this happened (seven) months ago," Sgt. Richard Jones said. "It was interpreted by us that they're suggesting that we need to go out now and conduct a welfare assessment."

The Register-Guard story says the police apologized and agreed to pay for repairs. The employee called it a misunderstanding and told officers he was glad they checked on him.

Since a May raid on the home of the company's owner, the FBI has asked local law enforcement agencies throughout the country to do what police term "welfare checks" on people apparently listed on client rolls.

In response to the same teletype, the paper said, a Lane County sheriff's sergeant contacted a woman who had purchased a kit. She told deputies she bought it as an option but had no immediate plans to use it.

FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth, who works in San Diego, said in a statement that when the agency gets a report that people may cause harm to themselves or others, it contacts local agencies and lets them decide what to do: "The FBI does this out of an abundance of caution for the safety of the individual and the public."