At approximately 5:10 p.m. on September 7, 2016, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NP) at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, heard screaming from an office adjacent to hers at Munson Army Health Center. The civilian NP ran into the hallway and found 26-year-old First Lieutenant Katie Ann Blanchard, an active duty Registered Nurse (RN) and mother of three, on fire from the waist up.
The smell of gasoline filled the hallway.
The NP could see another coworker, 54-year-old Clifford Currie, in the office with Katie. He was clutching a straight-edged razor in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. Currie, a short, rotund man weighing well over 200 pounds, was screaming at Katie and stabbing at her face even as she was engulfed in flames.
The NP rushed in and attempted to help Katie put out the flames and get away from Currie. Both the NP and Katie fell to the floor while struggling with Currie, who continued to stab at Katie while putting his foot on her neck and hollering incomprehensibly.
A doctor from a neighboring office heard the commotion and rushed to assist. She and the NP struggled to restrain Currie, who continued to stab at Katie. Even with Katie’s two heroic female co-workers fighting him, Currie was hell-bent on continuing his assault as Katie lay smoldering on the floor. Currie was finally restrained by a Non-Commissioned Officer who was also among the first to respond to the commotion.
Several of the people who were immediately on the scene of the attack in the hospital reported that they could hear Katie screaming, “I told you you this would happen!"
When a fireman commented that the smell might indicate that Katie had been chemically burned, Currie himself shouted out, “It's gasoline, you idiot!"
And as Clifford Currie was being arrested shortly after by the Leavenworth Military Police, he was coherent enough to insist that he needed psychiatric help and wanted to speak to a lawyer.
This tragedy was altogether preventable.
Prior to the attack, Clifford Currie gave every overt indication that he was a threat to Katie. Multiple witnesses and co-workers reinforced the fact that Katie felt unsafe around Currie. He had a history of threatening behavior towards her and towards his patients, and Katie requested to have another co-worker present for any and every dealing she had with him.
For most of the thirteen months that she worked with Currie, she tried to have him disciplined or removed before his disturbing behavior would eventually escalate to her attempted murder.
Katie was Currie’s immediate supervisor, and she wrote over twenty negative counseling statements for Currie.
These stemmed from his consistently abysmal work performance, complaints directly from patients, and his outright negligence in performing his role as the Exceptional Family Member Program Care Coordinator. Katie repeatedly communicated to her command that she felt unsafe with Currie at work, and she felt untrained to deal with his combative attitude and escalating threats.
Currie overtly threatened Katie on multiple occasions prior to the September 7, 2016, attack. One such incident occurred immediately after she returned from maternity leave in January of 2016, following the birth of her third son. Currie saw Katie doing paperwork. He aggressively thrust himself within inches of her face, and screamed, “NO NO NO NO! GET THE F*** AWAY!”
Katie was forced to call a “Code Green” in order for hospital security to stop Currie’s tirade. Code Green stands for, “A Combative person using physical force, who may be armed.”
Currie left the hospital campus immediately following this episode, but Katie’s Section Chief (First Line Supervisor) refused to support Katie in her pursuit to discipline or even to counsel Currie after the incident — insisting it “wasn’t a big deal.”
Nothing was done.
Currie continued to demonstrate a pattern of unpredictable, unhinged, and threatening behavior.
Katie continually asked for additional training for dealing with high conflict situations but was told by her superiors that she was too junior an officer to benefit from any additional training of that kind. Meanwhile, Currie remained vocal about his contempt for Katie as his supervisor and as a woman who intended to have a family; and he appeared emboldened by the lack of disciplinary action.
Katie did not feel safe at work. She told her Section Chief this numerous times — nothing was done.
When Katie’s initial Section Chief transferred from Leavenworth, her new (female) Section Chief took Katie’s pleas for help seriously.
She endeavored to stop Currie before he escalated by going to the next Officer in the Chain of Command. But this Section Chief’s effort to put a stop to Currie’s behavior using the proper protocol was met with an admonishment that both she and Katie were acting irrationally as women and needed to come with facts — and not emotions.
This bureaucratic lack of action paved the way for Clifford Currie, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees Union which supplies civilian personnel to Munson Army Health Center, to attempt to carry out the murder of First Lieutenant Katie Ann Blanchard.
Katie in the hospital just days after surviving Currie’s attempt to murder her.
Katie’s intellect, persistence, and resolve, combined with the heroics of her coworkers, are the only reasons she survived this malicious attack.
But in her recovery, Katie’s trials continue as she now navigates the military’s own brand of red tape.
Katie is currently stationed at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) in San Antonio, Texas. This facility is touted as the leading domicile for wounded Soldiers, yet the climate at the WTU is anything but nurturing for this survivor of a vicious attempted murder.
As a family, Katie and her husband, also an active-duty Officer, decided their three young sons — ages 6, 2, and 1 — should live with Katie on-post in San Antonio