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Costco gunman killed by off-duty cop identified as long haul trucker

The story of a long haul trucker who threatened shoppers with a firearm at a Lenexa, Kansas, Costco over the weekend before being fatally shot calls into question the psychological costs that trucking exacts on the men and women who devote themselves to life on the road.

No One Hurt After Truck Driver Threatens Shoppers At Costco

On Sunday morning around 11 a.m., 58 year old truck driver Ronald O. Hunt left his bobtail truck parked in the Costco parking lot, entered the store armed with a gun, and proceeded to threaten shoppers seemingly at random before off duty Kansas City, Kansas police captain Mike Howell fatally shot him.

Lenexa police say that in spite of Hunt’s menacing behavior, there is no evidence that he actually fired his gun and no one else was injured. Investigators say that Hunt does not appear to have had any specific targets in mind when he entered the store.

Police At A Loss For Motive In Costco Incident

As police struggle to determine the motive for Hunt’s behavior, details regarding his life paint a picture of the isolation he may have endured as a long haul trucker.

According to a report in the Kansas City Star, the only address police were able to find for Hunt was a Swift Transportation terminal in Kansas, leading them to believe that the only home that he had was his truck. Police are still trying to determine if Hunt had delivered a load to the Costco or if he was simply in the area.

While searching for relatives to notify about Hunt’s death, police were only able to locate a  person in California. This relative said that he was not close to Hunt and had not had any contact with him in a long time.

Costco Incident Shines The Light On Mental Health Issues In Trucking

Mental health issues have long been a major job hazard for truck drivers. Long hours, lack of sleep, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and being away from friends and family can all contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. One 2012 study of 316 male truck drivers surveyed near Greensboro, North Carolina, found “significant” mental health issues in the survey respondents. Of the mental health issues uncovered in the survey, loneliness (27.9%), depression (26.9%), chronic sleep disturbances (20.6%), anxiety (14.5%), and other emotional problems (13%) were the most prevalent in the truck drivers. To make the problem even worse, many truckers are reluctant to disclose mental health issues or to seek treatment because they fear losing their medical certification or their jobs.

CDLLife reader R Jerry Paulick wrote in just last week to talk about mental health in trucking:

The hard part for us drivers is to stay sane. We spend hours turning into days on the road alone and literally go crazy. It’s just us, the cb and the stereo. And people wonder why we go nuts.

Most times we are loud, don’t always say the right things, harsh, blunt, and why…try living how we do and see how long you stay normal. The truth is in the statistics for us. We have a very high suicide and mental issue rate, and it’s all because of how we live. We spend so much time alone and in our heads that there’s no way around it. It’s a proven fact that depression for us is directly related to our profession and there’s no way to combat that, except for proper medications or stopping the job.

Click here for the rest of Paulick’s article.

The investigation into the incident and the search for the motive for Hunt’s behavior is ongoing.