Family: Bacteria spurred rare disorder that killed accused Minnesota courthouse shooterThe family of alleged Cook County Courthouse shooter Daniel Schlienz said they were told he contracted an infection from a bacterium that triggered a rare disorder and caused his death.
The family of alleged Cook County Courthouse shooter Daniel Schlienz said they were told he contracted an infection from a bacterium that triggered a rare disorder and caused his death.
Schlienz’s sister, Bev Wolke, said she was given the information by St. Louis County Medical Examiner Thomas Uncini.
Uncini confirmed to the News Tribune that he spoke with Schlienz’s family about the cause of death, but said he was unwilling to say anything publicly at this time. He said he is awaiting one more test result before releasing a final autopsy report.
Schlienz was accused of shooting two people at the Cook County Courthouse on Dec. 15 and was being housed at the St. Louis County Jail.
The family was initially told that Schlienz, 42, died on Dec. 27 from disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, an often-fatal disorder that causes the body’s proteins that control blood clotting to become abnormally active and eventually consumes the body’s blood platelets, causing excessive bleeding throughout the body.
There is always an underlying cause of DIC, which Wolke said Uncini told her was an infection with the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.
If true, then there may have been no way to prevent Schlienz’s death, said Dr. Howard Mell, director of the emergency department at TriPoint Medical Center in suburban Cleveland and spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Mell said that particular bacterium is common in even healthy people and sits in the nose and upper airways.
However, Wolke said that due to an accident about 20 years ago, Schlienz was missing the majority of his spleen, which is responsible for fighting infections. Though Wolke said her brother never had a problem from the spleen injury, Mell said without a fully intact spleen, Schlienz’s body already had a problem fighting off the capsulated bacteria such as Streptococcus pnuemoniae, making him especially prone to that type of infection.
Once Schlienz developed DIC from the bacterium infection, Mell said, “I think the damage was done.”
“It can develop quite rapidly before there’s really a sign or symptom and before you can intervene,” Mell said.
Even if jail health personnel had recognized that Schlienz was infected from a bacterium, Mell said it’s probably impossible to know if something could have been done to stop the DIC from occurring.
“It’s like saying at what point is the fire too big?” Mell said. “You’re looking at a perfect storm here. You’re looking at a gentleman who gets an infection that is very common in the community that he is exceptionally susceptible to, and then gets perhaps the most horrid complication of it. Guessing whether or not it could have been avoided somehow is just impossible to say. It’s impossible to know if by the time he showed symptoms, he was already too far gone to save.”
Wolke, however, said she’s not convinced that St. Louis County Jail staff couldn’t have prevented her brother’s death.
Schlienz’s family and Wolke have told the News Tribune they believe he was denied basic medical care when he had a severe cough, and said she was told by County Medical Examiner Uncini that “if Dan had gotten medical attention before he had gotten severely ill, there was a chance he could have survived.”
Asked for a response, County Sheriff Ross Litman said, “I said this weeks ago and I say it again today: Based on our administrative review of the entirety of Daniel’s stay in our facility and everything that our staff did, and all the information that we had, I believe we acted appropriately and did everything that we could for him.
“But the caveat on that, is, and I don’t want to jump to conclusion and say with 100 percent certainty that we did everything right, that there’s nothing we could have done. That’s why we have to wait for (Dr.) Uncini’s report, and hopefully there will be enough information in that report that if there is some deficiency, or there is something we could have done, then I’ll respond to it then.”