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Police Piece Together Events Leading to Officer Shooting His Son

Authorities say the son fatally stabbed his mother with gardening shears inside the family home.

A Montgomery County Police sergeant shot and killed his adult son Wednesday night. Authorities say the son fatally stabbed his mother. File|Patch
A Montgomery County Police sergeant shot and killed his adult son Wednesday night. Authorities say the son fatally stabbed his mother. File|Patch

Friends of the James Stirkens family, and his fellow officers on the Montgomery County Police Department, are grappling with the events that led to the deaths of his wife and son.

What they say they know: Stirkens, a 27-year veteran of the police department and patrol sergeant in the Silver Spring district, shot and killed his son, Christopher, 25. They say the younger Stirkens used garden shears to fatally stab his mother and James Stirkens' wife, Denise, 53.

According to the Montgomery police blog, the shooting occurred about 8:06 p.m. Wednesday at the family home in the 7400 block of Lake Katrine Terrace in Gaithersburg.

Sgt. Stirkens heard an altercation between Christopher and Denise Stirkens, the police blog says. “The officer came to the aid of his wife who had been stabbed by the son. The exact sequence of events is still under investigation but it is believed that the officer shot his son with a handgun. The officer then called 911.

The Washington Post reports that James Stirkens called 911 to try to save his wife, after he had shot and killed his son. “Please, please,” he begged, “send an ambulance.”

"He is trying to save his wife’s life,” Police Chief Tom Manger told the Post, describing the 911 call. “He’s pleading for help to get there. You can hear the agony in his voice.”

The elder Stirkens tried to stop the bleeding from his wife’s wound, with the help of 911 operators, but Denise died at a local hospital that night.

“My family is broken and it will never be the same,” the couple’s daughter, Tiana, wrote in a Facebook post. “I will never be the same.”

Investigators are trying to understand what motivated Christopher Stirkens, who lived at the home, to attack his mother. Detectives were exploring whether mental illness played a role.

Christopher Stirkens, a Magruder High School graduate, attended Montgomery College for two semesters in 2008, school officials told the Post.

On her Facebook page, Denise Stirkens had posted photos of the couple with their three children: Christopher, Tiana and their sister, Tiara.

“(James Stirkens) is one of the most gentlemanly, demure and considerate men I have ever met,” Capt. Bob Carter, commander of the police department’s family crimes division and formerly Stirkens’s supervisor in Silver Spring, told the Post. “He loves and cares for everyone in his family. He always focused on the positive aspects of their lives.”

The investigation is continuing and no charges have been filed.

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