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Slain Gunman’s Mother: Son “Snapped” In Boot Camp

May 11, 1985

HARTLAND, Maine (AP) _ The man who fired more than 50 shotgun blasts from a downtown street corner and injured three people before police shot him dead was a schizophrenic who ″went off the deep end″ 20 years ago in Marine boot camp, his mother said Saturday.

Alice Brawn said she did not know what caused Harland Brawn to go on a 45- minute shooting spree Friday, although she knew he passionately hated pornography and was angry with a man who formerly worked at a drive-in theater that showed X-rated movies.

″He was always against those movies and magazines,″ even before he first showed signs of mental illness, Mrs. Brawn said in a telephone interview. ″That really got him, I’ll tell you - that irritated his mind all the time.″

Brawn, screaming his opposition to pornography, fired at buildings, vehicles and people in this central Maine town of 1,600, officials and witnesses said.

He hit two police officers driving by in a car, and a bystander more than 150 yards away, before state police killed him. The officers were reported in stable condition Saturday at a Portland hospital. The bystander was treated Friday for a foot wound and released.

Mrs. Brawn said her son, 36, had lived at home with his parents. She said he had no history of mental illness before he joined the Marines at age 17 and went to the Parris Island Marine Training Depot in South Carolina.

Mrs. Brawn said her son had told her that in boot camp, he was one shot away from a perfect score on a sharpshooting test that would have gotten him a promotion when he was tripped by another Marine. ″He always said it was intentional,″ she said in a telephone interview.

″He snapped, you see,″ Mrs. Brawn said. ″He was put in the guard house for a while because he went off the deep end.″ She said he had been isolated for at least a month at the boot camp, and never completed his tour of duty.

Capt. Keith Oliver, deputy public affairs officer for Parris Island, said Saturday that Brawn’s records had been transferred to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington. Nobody was available at that office Saturday.

Mrs. Brawn said her son had been treated repeatedly during the past two decades for his mental illness, including outpatient treatment at Togus Veterans Administration Hospital in Augusta in March.

″I tried to get him to go back,″ she said, but ″he was afraid they were going to keep him there. He’d rather be dead than kept there.″

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Goodwin said investigators discovered two letters in Brawn’s jacket, one of which Goodwin described as a ″paranoid″ list of people Brawn regarded as threats.