'What a waste of my brother's life': Family mourns retired Air Force colonel killed in Seattle shooting rampage
By SARA JEAN GREEN | The Seattle Times | Published: March 29, 2019
SEATTLE (Tribune News Service) — Robert “Bob” Hassan, a retired physician and Air Force colonel who traveled the world, was supposed to fly to Florida this weekend to spend a few days with his two younger brothers. They planned to play horseshoes on Tuesday.
“I wish he’d done it last week. Then he wouldn’t have been there to meet this lunatic,” Jim Hassan, a retired police officer from upstate New York, said of his brother when reached by phone Thursday while vacationing in Florida.
Robert Hassan, 76, died from a gunshot wound to the head Wednesday during a shooting rampage in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood. He was driving home after a game of pinochle with friends.
The man arrested, who is also accused of shooting a woman in a car and a Metro bus driver in what police say was a random attack, allegedly stole Hassan’s red Prius and led officers on a short pursuit before colliding with another vehicle. The driver of that car, 75-year-old Richard T. Lee, died from his injuries.
The suspected gunman, Tad-Michael Norman, 33, was arrested at the scene on investigation of homicide, assault and robbery, and is expected to make his first court appearance Friday.
“This has been a very stressful day for me, imagining my brother lying on the ground, shot in the face. I can’t get that out of my head,” Jim Hassan said. “What a waste of my brother’s life. He basically spent his whole life in service to other people.”
Born in 1943 in Niagara Falls, New York, Hassan graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in chemistry. He joined the Navy before attending medical school, also at the University of Pittsburgh, and later served as a flight surgeon in a variety of postings, his brother said. While stationed in Maine, he was part of a patrol squadron responsible for “primarily chasing Soviet submarines prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union,” James Hassan said.
After serving six years with the Navy, Hassan went into private practice in Maine but soon returned to active service with the Air Force.
He and his wife, Penny, a registered nurse Hassan met while in medical school, raised five children, Jim Hassan said. Hassan was stationed at Howard Air Force Base in Panama and was later the commander at an Air Force hospital in New Mexico, he said. As a reservist, Hassan also served as a civil-service doctor at military examination centers in North Dakota and Kentucky.
Hassan later purchased a farm in upstate New York and served as a county representative, successfully fighting construction of a nuclear-waste dump, his brother said.
He and his wife later moved to Tennessee and split their time between homes there and in Florida. They started coming to Seattle six or seven years ago after their son, a prominent Silicon Valley software developer, bought a vacation home on Lake Washington for the family to use, Jim Hassan said.
Penny Hassan died a couple of years ago and Hassan recently married his second wife, Liz, a lifelong Seattle resident, said his brother.
Jim Hassan said his brother was always the smartest person in the room.
“He’s always going and doing something. It’s hard to keep track of his adventures,” Jim Hassan said of his brother, who recently traveled to Australia and New Zealand. “He was a very, very good athlete and an excellent pingpong player. Same thing with horseshoes. … He was not fun to play horseshoes against, not unless he was on your team.”
Investigators said they had no information about a potential motive for the shootings.
"We believe it's a random, senseless act," Deputy Police Chief Marc Garth Green told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "We're outraged at what this suspect did."
Staff reporter Asia Fields and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.