The parents of Louisville bank shooter Connor Sturgeon are calling for tighter gun control in America to stop other people in the midst of mental health struggles from getting their hands on deadly weapons.
Todd and Lisa Sturgeon spoke to NBC’s Today Show on Thursday morning, in what marks their first TV interview since their son killed five colleagues in a horror rampage at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville earlier this month.
The parents shared their grief and guilt over both their son’s death and the deaths of his five victims as they revealed they had been seeking mental health support for him just days before he went on the shooting spree.
But, despite his mental health struggles, the 25-year-old had been able to walk into a gun store and buy the AR-15 rifle used to kill five just days before the attack.
This is something his parents say he “absolutely” should never have been able to do.
“How many mass shootings have there been this calendar year already? It has been happening to other people like us, and we’re continuing to let it happen and we have to fix that,” said Ms Sturgeon.
“Because of his mental condition, he should not have been able to purchase the gun,” she said.
“If there had been a delay or something of that nature, that would have been helpful.”
Mr Sturgeon added: “We know that Connor was seeing two mental health professionals and that he was able to walk in.
“From what we have been told is that he walked in [to the gun store] and walked out with a weapon and ammunition in 40 minutes.”
Now, Sturgeon’s parents hope the tragedy can bring about change to prevent people “in an impaired state” from being able to legally buy firearms so easily.
“What we’re hoping to do is stimulate some conversation around this,” said Mr Sturgeon.
“I think the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want people in an impaired state to have a weapon in their hand.
“Now, it becomes more complex to thread the needle and protect us from those people while still being conscious of individual rights and liberties.”
While they stopped short of pointing to specific policies they think could help bring about change, authorities have previously revealed that Sturgeon bought the AR-15 legally from a Kentucky store just six days before the 10 April shooting.
That very same day – 4 April – Ms Sturgeon said that her son called her to say he had had a panic attack.
The 25-year-old had struggled with his mental health for the past year but they thought he was “coming out of a crisis” at the time.
She arranged a psychiatrist appointment for him for two days later and she and her husband joined him for it.
“He was willing to talk to me. He had told us before he would never do such a thing like that to us,” she said.
“We thought he was coming out of a crisis.”
But just four days after that appointment, Sturgeon entered his workplace Old National Bank armed with an AR-15 and gunned down his coworkers, while livestreaming the massacre online.
Five executives at the bank – Tommy Elliott, 63, Jim Tutt, 64, Josh Barrick, 40, Juliana Farmer, 57, and Deana Eckert, 57 – died in the attack while another eight were hospitalised.
Sturgeon then opened fire on responding officers at the scene before he was killed by officer fire.
Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Nickolas Wilt was shot in the head by the gunman and is still in critical condition in hospital more than two weeks on.
Sturgeon’s parents feel they “failed” the victims who died and were injured that day.
“Well-meaning people keep saying to us, ‘You know, you did what any reasonable parents would have done.’ But Connor in his darkest hour needed us to be exceptional, not reasonable — and we failed him,” said Mr Sturgeon.
“We failed those people,” Ms Sturgeon added.
She added: “We are so sorry. We are heartbroken. We wish we could undo it, but we know we can’t.”
“He did this to totally innocent individuals. There was no provocation, no justification, no rationalisation at all.”