A Troubled Marine's Final Fight

When his nation called, Marine Sergeant David Lindley answered. But when he came home hurting, his country let him down

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Peter Van Agtmael / Magnum for TIME

When his nation called, Marine Sergeant David Linley answered. But when he came home hurting, his country let him down.

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Shortly after 2 p.m. the next day, on Sept. 22, 2006, a pair of police officers showed up at Linley's two-story house, bought a year earlier for $232,500. They'd been dispatched because Linley's new employer was concerned by his absence from work. One knocked at the front door, arousing Linley from a drunken stupor. "Linley appeared calm, polite and cooperative," the police report said, although the police noted the bayonet-style knife hanging from his webbed belt.

The officer ordered Linley outside once he smelled gas. But Linley locked the door and barricaded it with a wooden bench. Then he made the biggest mistake of his life.

He grabbed a bolt-action .22 from an upstairs closet. He had bought it as a gift to give his son someday. It was the only gun in the house. He retrieved bullets from the basement.

The police, given the gas, the knife and Linley's retreat inside, summoned reinforcements, who began to encircle the house as they arrived on the scene. They turned off the exterior gas valve to 130 Wethersfield Lane.

A short time later, Linley, unprovoked, began squeezing off rounds from a second-story window above his garage. The initial volley shattered windows in an unoccupied police car parked in front of his house. He moved to the back of the house and began firing at a neighbor's storage shed that was shielding two police officers. "We had several officers basically pinned down behind sheds and trees," Bolingbrook police lieutenant Michael Rompa says. "I don't know the exact amount of rounds that he fired, but it was listed in the hundreds ... it was probably closer to a thousand rounds."

Once I opened the door we spoke briefly, but then the officer began yelling at me to come outside. He started reaching back, as if to draw his weapon. I instantly went into fight mode. I slammed the door shut, saw the officer trying to get in and saw the second officer begin to run around toward the back of the house. I was being surrounded.

As the afternoon dragged on, some 30 officers--including state police--arrived. They asked the FAA to order a news helicopter buzzing overhead to leave the scene. They approached Linley's house in an armored vehicle. They deployed a pair of robots in an unsuccessful effort to search the house. They lobbed tear gas inside. Nothing seemed to work.

Police restricted access to the 95 other homes in the Hunters Trail subdivision and sent bewildered neighbors fleeing or into their basements. "He was a very gentle person," says Mike Dahlberg, who lived across the street. Police kept Dahlberg from his home as his wife and son huddled inside with five police officers during the standoff. "Whatever war can do to a person," he says, "I think it did it to him."

Linley now maintains that he never intended to hit anyone; none of the 125 shots Linley fired--Rompa's estimate was considerably off the mark--during the nine-hour shoot-out found a human target. The onetime Marine marksman says what he did was "stupid," triggered by PTSD and fueled by alcohol.

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