A man denied a prescription for pain killers Tuesday morning allegedly left and returned to a small eastern Kentucky clinic and shot a doctor dead while patients and staff looked on.
Whitesburg, Kentucky — A man upset after not getting a prescription for pain killers at a rural eastern Kentucky medical clinic near here allegedly returned to the clinic and shot and killed a doctor early Tuesday morning. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Dr. Dennis Sandlin, 57, was shot about 11:30 am, at the Leatherwood/Blackey Medical Clinic in Cornettsville. John Combs, 46, of Redfox, Kentucky was later arrested and charged with murder. Dr. Sandlin was pronounced dead at the scene by Perry County Coroner Jimmy Maggard.
Police reported that Combs became upset and combative when he was asked to give a urine sample at the clinic before a prescription for the pain killers would be written. Combs then allegedly refused the test then threatened to return to the clinic and "blow it up" before leaving. Perry County Deputy Sheriff Sam Mullins responded to the clinic about 9:30 am, but Combs had already left. Mullins said it was thought that Combs would not return to the clinic and they declined to press charges for the threat.
Police said that at about 11:30 am, Combs returned to the clinic, which employs 20 people, and shot Dr. Sandlin in the head with a handgun while Sandlin stood writing in a patients chart. Sandlin was the only doctor on duty at the clinic at the time. Reports are that the shooting was witnessed by several patients and staff members. Dr. Sandlin was a 1978 graduate of the University of Louisville (KY) School of Medicine and had worked at the clinic for 25 years.
Initial reports are that Combs had tried to obtain prescription pain killers earlier Tuesday morning in the nearby town of Whitesburg, Kentucky, but apparently was denied for reasons unclear at this time. Whitesburg is the home of the Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, a non-profit community health organization that owns and runs the Leatherwood/Blackey Medical Clinic and several others in the region.
Dr. Sandlin was well known in the region as a caring and compassionate physician who mainly treated elderly patients. Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor, Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, is a physician in the neighboring Perry County city of Hazard, Kentucky, and knew Sandlin. He said that Dr. Sandlin was a well respected physician who had been a friend "for years." He said that Sandlin had returned to the eastern Kentucky area after medical school in order to serve the people of the community.