Shock, Tragedy at Bend 'Open Mic' Night

Teen Keyboard Performer Stabs, Kills Self as Crowd Looks On

POSTED: 1:05 PM PDT June 26, 2012    UPDATED: 10:27 AM PDT April 17, 2011 
BEND, Ore. -

Open mic night ended in a horrific tragedy as 19-year-old Kipp Rusty Walker took his own life Thursday night at a Bend coffee house.

While the terrifying scene shocked patrons, one of Walker?s friends, who did not want to be named, said Friday he saw it coming.

"I've been preparing for it for a while. I'm sad about it, but I think I'm in shock -- it's like a whirlwind of emotions," Walker's friend said.

A public suicide takes away the breath of friends and strangers alike. NewsChannel 21 rarely reports on suicides, to spare friends and family added pain, but police released information, both to stop rumors and to make sure people know resources are available to try to prevent such tragedies.

Walker was playing the keyboard for a crowd of nearly 15 people at Strictly Organic Coffee Company on Bond Street when his performance took a tragic turn.

Strictly Organic's co-owner, Rhonda Ealy, said she was not at the coffee house's open mic night but her staff re-counted what happened.

"It was really unclear at first what was even happening," Ealy said. "You know it is an open mic and it's a performance, people at first thought it was some sort of theater."

Patrons said Walker, who would have turned 20 in a week, stood up, said nothing -- then began stabbing himself in his chest, over and over.

"It was a double-edged type blade knife," police Sgt. Chris Carney said. "Where that knife came from (on his person) --.the witnesses didn't notice where it came from."

The friend of Walker, who did not want to be named or be on camera, told NewsChannel 21 the sad truth is Walker wasn't depressed -- he just didn't want to live anymore. And disturbingly enough, Walker had planned to kill himself in a public place, according to his friend.

"It was almost like he wanted to prove a point, like there's no point in being scared of death because it's going to happen to us anyway," the friend said.

When NewsChannel 21 asked the friend if he'd done anything to stop him, he said there was nothing he could do.

He said the first time Walker threatened to kill himself was on Mar. 20th. The friend called Walker's parents, and Walker was taken to the psychiatric unit at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend, where he spent a few days, according to his friend.

Walker's friend said he warned him about the consequences of what he planned to do.

"I actually told him, I was like, 'Dude, this is going to mess a lot of people up,'" the friend said.

The answers to many people's immediate questions offer barely any comfort, and everyone who witnessed the unthinkable now have to deal with one person's decision.

"Most people never have to see anything like that in their entire lives, and never have before, so it is a life-changing experience," Ealy said.

For anyone who was at Strictly Organic when Walker took his life, there are counseling services available to you. Call Rhonda Ealy, as she'll be setting up classes with the fire department to help people deal with the stress from this traumatic incident. Ealy's number is 541-771-3189.

"In light of the tragic suicide," St. Charles Health System officials called a Friday afternoon news conference, in partnership with Bend Police Department and the Deschutes County Public Health Department, "to discuss resources that are available in the community for those struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts."

Officials talked about resources available to the community for those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide. But what if someone doesn't want to be helped?

"Even if a person claims, 'No, I was joking,' if we don't believe that's the case, they're trying to mitigate it so they can fulfill that idea, we can still take them into protective custody," Carney said.

"And obviously, my understanding in this case was the friends didn't believe he was serious -- they thought it was something he said in passing," the sergeant added.

Officials said you should always take threats like suicide seriously --- and call for help, no matter what. If you or a loved one is in danger, call the Deschutes County Health services 24 hour crisis hotline at 541-322-7500, or call police.

There's also a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number at 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255), available 24-7 anywhere in the country.