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A seven-hour standoff at a Texas Department of Health and Human Services building that was staged by a mother who was denied food stamps ended with the woman killing her two children and then herself.

The victims were mother Rachelle Grimmer, 38, her 12-year-old daughter Ramie, and her 10-year-old son Timothy. Grimmer first applied for food stamps in July after moving to Laredo, TX, from Zanesville, OH; she was denied assistance because she didn’t turn in enough information. When the department didn’t hear back from Grimmer, her case was closed Aug. 8 due to lack of a full application.

Stephanie Goodman, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, told The Associated Press Grimmer’s last contact with the agency appeared to be a phone call in mid-November. When she entered the Laredo office on Monday around 5 pm, Grimmer asked to speak to a new caseworker and was taken to a private room to discuss her case. The mother then revealed a gun and the standoff began.

Police negotiators stayed on the phone with Grimmer throughout the evening, but she kept hanging up, Laredo police investigator Joe Baeza said. Grimmer allegedly told negotiators about a slew of complaints against state and federal government agencies, but Baeza said he still wasn’t entirely sure what sparked the standoff.

“This wasn’t like a knee-jerk reaction,” he said, adding that Grimmer felt she was owed restitution.

Grimmer released a supervisor around 7:45pm, but stayed inside the office with her children. After hanging up the phone around 11:45pm, police say they heard three shots. When the SWAT team entered the building, they found Grimmer unconscious. Her children were “very critical.”

Goodman said she didn’t know whether Grimmer had a job or whether her children were covered under Medicaid or the state children’s health insurance program. She added that it’s possible the family’s move from Ohio may have complicated Grimmer’s application if the family had no Texas records the agency could check electronically. Grimmer would have also been denied benefits if she was receiving welfare assistance.

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.


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