This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2014.
Two people are dead in a tragic family incident in Gaithersburg, where Montgomery County police say an off-duty officer shot and killed his son while trying to defend his wife from the son’s stabbing attack.
According to Capt. Jim Daly, 58-year-old officer James Stirkens — a 27-year veteran of the police force — discovered his 25-year-old son, Christopher Stirkens, attacking James’s wife, Denise Stirkens, in an upstairs bedroom.
“He observed his son attacking his wife with a sharp instrument,” Daly said.
To defend his wife, Stirkens shot his son, killing him, Daly said.
Fire and rescue personnel took 53-year-old Denise Stirkens, to a local hospital, where she died.
“Her injuries were stab wounds,” Daly said.
The killings happened at a two-story home on the 7400 block of Lake Katrine Terrace Wednesday night at about 8 p.m., Daly said Thursday.
Daly said James Stirkens called 911 immediately after the shooting and stayed on the phone with them until they arrived. He has been placed on routine administrative leave while police investigate the slayings, Daly said. Internal affairs also will investigate after the initial investigation into the deaths is completed, he said.
No charges have been filed against James Stirkens, according to police.
It was not known yet how many times the sergeant shot his son or if the handgun used was his personal weapon or a department-issued firearm. It also was not yet clear if Stirkens’ son used a knife or another weapon in the alleged stabbing.
Police said they didn’t know what led to Christopher Stirkens’ alleged attack on his mother.
Christopher had run-ins with the law in the past, online court records show, but those were for relatively minor transgressions — marijuana possession charges in 2009 and 2012. In one case, charges were dropped. In the other, he pleaded guilty and received a $150 fine.
It’s also unclear if Christopher Stirkens had any mental ailments.
“We’re looking at all possibilities to see if there’s a mental health component, a substance abuse component. ... It’s certainly part of the investigation,” Daly said.
All three lived at the Lake Katrine Terrace home for about 20 years, according to police. No one else was in the home at the time, police said.
According to Denise Stirkens’ Facebook page, she had worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and at Montgomery County Public Schools. School officials could not immediately confirm where she had worked in the county.
“It is a tragic situation,” Daly told reporters Thursday morning.
Marlin Tyner, 29, a neighbor, said Christopher Stirkens was withdrawn.
“If you talk to him, he’s quiet,” he said.
He said he heard problems at the home previously.
“I heard screaming and stuff, but whenever they came outside, everyone acted [like] everything’s OK,” he said.
“There’s probably never been a cross word coming out of [James Stirkens’] mouth,” said another neighbor, who identified himself only as “Jack.”
Christopher Stirkens attended Magruder High School in Rockville and played on the school’s basketball team as a senior before graduating in 2006, according to Magruder coach Dan Harwood. That season, the team went 22-3 before losing in the regional championships, he said.
“We’re all kind of shocked over here at Magruder. When he was here, he was a really good kid, a really quiet kid,” Harwood said.
Christopher Stirkens attended University of Maryland-Eastern Shore for a year, from 2006 to 2007, according to school officials there.
“We’re all traumatized on one level or another,” said Third District Commander Don Johnson, James Stirkens’ commanding officer. “Everybody in the police family is very devastated by this event.”
Stirkens has worked at the station as a patrol sergeant the last six years, he said. Stirkens has been reliable, trustworthy, and knowledgable, he said.
“He provides that senior experience every commander needs to have at the station,” he said.
“You just can’t imagine what he’s going through. ... You can’t picture that worst-case scenario nightmare,” he said.