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A final request from Iraq vet who took own life outside Grand Forks emergency room

Leaves message for emergency workers before shooting himself

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Sean Alexander Dacus, a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote out a final request Tuesday morning before fatally shooting himself in the chest outside the emergency room at Altru Health System.

According to police, the 31-year-old Grand Forks resident walked into the Altru Clinic just before 11:30 a.m. and borrowed a marker at the coffee shop.

He wrote on his arm "Do not resuscitate" and below that, "Donate organs please," a police source said. To the right of those lines, he wrote "A-," which police believe was his blood type.

Alone, Dacus sat on park bench outside between the clinic and emergency room and shot himself in the chest with a .380-caliber handgun. Police believe he was not targeting Altru or any person.

Altru security, its station just inside the doors, responded, followed by six emergency room personnel. But attempts to resuscitate Dacus failed, according to emergency services director Dr. Christopher Boe.

Dacus has a large extended family in the region, including his mother and father, who both live in Grand Forks. A relative acting as a family spokesman said they won't comment at this time.

A former Army buddy expressed shock upon hearing of the suicide. The Dacus he knew was "always upbeat." One of Dacus' uncles said that Dacus had changed. "When he came back, he was not the same person who went over there."

Evidence, autopsy

On Wednesday, police released a portion of a report saying officers had collected Dacus' possessions into evidence, including clothing, a cell phone and holster, a pill bottle and a wallet. The rest of the report was not released.

Dacus' vehicle was found in the Altru parking lot and police believe he drove himself to the hospital.

An autopsy was performed on Dacus' body Wednesday.

Altru would not comment on whether his request to have his organs donated was carried out.

Military man

Dacus was a member of the Army's 10th Mountain Division stationed in Ft. Drum, N.Y. Zach Hodros served in the Second Brigade Second Battalion's Alpha Company with Dacus in Iraq from August 2004 to August 2005.

During one part of the tour, Dacus drove a Humvee, and Hodros said he was the gunner. "We worked in the same truck for over a year. You get really close."

Their unit was stationed near Abu Ghraib Prison, right outside Baghdad during an escalation of ground combat. The battalion suffered 10 to 11 deaths, two of which were in Alpha Company.

Dacus was friends with one of them, Spc. Brandon T. Titus.

In the Fallen Heroes online memorial, he wrote a tribute after Titus' 2004 death: "Brandon was a great soldier and a friend to many of us, he was always quick witted and brought a smile to many faces. His hard work and sacrifice will never be forgotten."

"That was right at the height of everything going on," Hodros said. "It wasn't the best place to be."

But he was shocked to hear of Dacus' death. "For the situations we were in, he was always upbeat," Hodros said. "The Sean I knew was a fun guy to be around. He was never a depressed person."

At that point Dacus had already served a tour in northern Iraq, starting in March 2003. According to police Lt. Grant Schiller, Dacus also served a tour in Afghanistan.

Military service runs in his family. One of Dacus' uncles, Al Hoffarth, said Dacus' grandfather was Col. John Dacus, commander of the task force that built the first Minuteman missile sites in North Dakota in 1964.

Hodros said he kept in touch with Dacus for a while, but lost touch in 2006. Records show Dacus was divorced from his wife that year.

Stephen J. Lee contributed to this report.