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Family of Dallas courthouse shooter, an Army vet, believes he wanted to be killed

Dallas Police car. (Nine-Twenty/Flickr)

The family of Brian Clyde spoke for the first time publicly Wednesday about his attack on Dallas’ Earle Cabell Federal Building, saying they believe his real intent was to be killed.

Clyde, 22, died in an exchange of gunfire Monday morning with federal officers. No one else was seriously injured.

“I think he wanted to die,” said Clyde’s mother, Nubia Brede Solis.

Her son had been in a mental institution for two weeks about five or six months before he was discharged from the Army in 2017, said Brede Solis, 59. He was placed in a civilian hospital in Louisiana during a training exercise at Fort Polk that simulated combat conditions.

An Army spokesman said Wednesday the military would not release information about a soldier’s medical records.

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His stepmother, 42-year-old Heather Clyde, said Wednesday that the family believes he went to the federal building so authorities would kill him.

“That’s our feeling. He knew there had been a shooting down there. He knew it was a well-armed area,” she said.

Asked if he had any idea why his son shot up the federal building Monday, Paul Clyde shook his head and said he didn’t know.

“I ultimately think he didn’t want to hurt anybody,” he said, adding that he believes his son “went down there purely for suicide by cop. I don’t have any other insights,” he said.

“That’s just the gut feeling I have of my boy.”

Paul Clyde, 47, sitting in his Plano home, said he had talked with his son about his mental health. The father, who is in the Army Reserves, said he had undergone suicide-prevention training and had asked his son about his mental health two days before the shooting.

“We had discussions of suicide thoughts in the past.” His son always said, “Dad, I will never do it. I will never hurt anybody. I’m good, I’m fine,” Clyde said.

But as for what triggered his son and “pushed him over the edge,” he said, “I wish I knew.”

The last time Paul Clyde saw his son was the Saturday before Father’s Day.

Brian Clyde had come over for a family get-together, Paul Clyde said. “He seemed fine. He helped cook. There was no change from any other time.”

In fact, life seemed to be going Brian’s way. He had graduated a month earlier from Del Mar College, a two-year community college in Corpus Christi. He stayed for a week in Plano with his dad before moving to a new apartment in Fort Worth a month ago to take a new job with an aerospace company.

Heather Clyde said family members hadn’t seen warning signs. They had been only beginning to reconnect with him because he’d been in college and, before that, the military.

“There was no indication,” she said. “It’s just like hearing (about) a stranger. Like when you watch the news. It’s not even near the surface of who the Brian we knew was.”

Clyde, who moved to Fort Worth about a month ago, didn’t join the family for Father’s Day. He said he wasn’t up for the drive from Fort Worth to Plano, his family said.

His last communication with his father, Paul Clyde, was a text message that said. “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.” And he made emoji with its tongue sticking because he said “Daddy” instead of “Dad,” his family said.

Paul Clyde said he was thankful no one else was hurt.

“My son was a very good shot,” he said. “He didn’t have an intention to shoot anybody.”

He said he believes his son knew his shots would be returned at the federal building.

“He knew the response that would come,” he said.

Paul Clyde said he suspects his son had hidden his inner turmoil, and he urged veterans and others to seek help if they are struggling.

Born Sept. 30, 1996, Brian Clyde was a middle child in a big blended family. His mother, Brede-Solis, originally from Panama, and his father, Paul Clyde, divorced when Brian was a toddler. He lived with his mother while he went to high school in Austin and college in Corpus Christi.

He had a “quirky and funny” personality, his dad said. He got along very well with his mom.

“He couldn’t stay away from me for too long,” she said. “He was never disrespectful and never got in trouble in school.”

A former high school classmate said Wednesday that she recalled Clyde using racist and homophobic language and being obsessed with firearms.

McKenna Stout, 20, said she was in Leander Independent School District’s ROTC program with Clyde, who graduated two years ahead of her.

Stout, who is gay, said Clyde directed homophobic slurs toward anyone who was out, and that his words and actions in high school were “very obviously racist” and “very obviously homophobic.”

She said that Clyde, who shared photos of weapons on Facebook, had always been “obsessed with guns and ammo.”

Paul Clyde said that isn’t the son he knew. The father said any comments like that aren’t appropriate and are not in good taste. But he said he knew his son didn’t really mean them.

Brian enlisted right out of high school and served in the Army from August 2015 to February 2017 before he was honorably discharged. His mother said she urged her son to go to college instead. But many in his family had served in the military, including his father and grandfather and several of his aunts. His dad, Paul, served on active duty in the Gulf War in 1991 and deployed to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. In the Army Reserves, he’s a first sergeant based in Grand Prairie.

Still, Paul Clyde said he had tried to talk his son out of joining the infantry. Brian Clyde was interested in computers, and his father tried to steer him to an Army occupation in that field. But he said his son was determined to be an infantry soldier.

But Brian told his parents he was having a rough time of it. Paul Clyde said his son told him he was being targeted by his teammates and supervisors because he was seen as weak. The father tried to contact supervisors in his son’s unit, not just as a dad but also as a concerned senior noncommissioned officer. “Just to ensure that … a soldier is not being targeted and not being harassed because of him seen as someone weak,” he said.

His son’s unit might have wanted to toughen his son up, Paul Clyde reasoned. “I think that might have been the ultimate goal,” he said, “but unfortunately that’s not how it was received.”

Paul Clyde said he believes his son’s hospitalization is the reason he left the Army. “Ultimately,” he said.

After his discharge, he immediately felt better — “rejuvenated,” his mother said and that “a weight had been lifted” off him.

“I asked him do you have depression, do you feel sad?” the mother said. He told her, “No, mother. I’m not depressed anymore.”

Paul Clyde shook his head and held back tears as he recalled the photo of his son in combat gear outside the federal building.

“It’s not him. There is nothing in those eyes,” he said. “I know it’s him. It’s just like a blank stare. It’s not my boy.”

His mother said Brian Clyde looked “lost in space” in the photo.

Paul Clyde was at work Monday when he got a text from his mother, then a call from his father and a text from a reporter asking him to comment. But he didn’t know what it meant.

“Son, you need to find out what the hell is going on,” Paul Clyde said his father told him.

He called his son’s phone. No answer. Then he called Brian Clyde’s mother, who was crying.

Paul Clyde choked back tears Wednesday as he spoke about the solace he felt knowing that law enforcement officers tried to save his son’s life after the shooting.

“My heart goes out to them,” Paul Clyde said.

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(Staff writers Dana Branham and Tom Steele contributed to this report.)

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© 2019 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.