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‘He started hearing voices’: Sister of man who set home on fire during standoff says brother had mental illness

Mental illness mixed with drug use fueled David Claborn’s dangerous paranoia

SAN ANTONIO – The public may know the situation as a standoff with an armed man who set fire to a car and a house, but digging deeper showed that it was really a mental health story with a tragic ending.

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David Claborn, 29, died inside his childhood home Feb. 18 after he set it on fire during a six-hour standoff with SWAT teams.

Through her grief, Claborn’s older sister, Marie Wuensche, wanted to set the record straight by explaining something very difficult — the chain of events that day was her brother’s fault and no one else’s.

"He's always had issues, but two months ago, he started hearing voices," she said.

Wuensche said the meth intensified her brother's lifelong mental illness after he began using the drug about six months ago.

Officials ID man who died after setting his parents’ home on fire, throwing Molotov cocktail

“He believed that Sam across the street was holding his baby mama and baby hostage in there. In his mind, he could see the baby being held up in there. That’s why he targeted Sam’s house,” she said, confirming that her brother had been harassing his neighbor for months. “He also believed Sam had set up cameras and was spying on him.”

That neighbor, Sam, talked to KSAT off camera and pointed out a broken dresser in his living room. He said on the morning of Feb. 18, Claborn hauled the dresser through his front window.

Throughout the morning, Claborn broke more windows before setting Sam's car on fire. Sam pointed out the half-full gas can still sitting in the car. He said Claborn brought it over and used it to start the car fire.

When police showed up, Claborn ran back inside his house while parents were inside.

"My mom told me he had grabbed a gun, and my dad called me soon afterward, and that's when he panned his video call around and I saw my brother go up the stairs with the gun. That's when I was like, ‘No, you need to get out of the house,’" Wuensche said.

Police said Claborn got on the roof with the gun before eventually throwing a Molotov cocktail into the home, setting it on fire.

The medical examiner said Claborn died from smoke inhalation.

With shaking hands, Wuensche set blame in the toughest of places.

"It was mental health. It was my brother who thought something was happening that wasn't happening," she said.

Though heart-wrenching, she says the truth is necessary. She wishes her brother had sought help a long time ago.

"I don't want this to ever happen to someone else," she said.

Wuensche lives in Oregon but immediately flew to San Antonio when she heard the news. Her parents' home is now a total loss, and she is trying to find housing for them.

In the meantime, she is still grappling with some questions she has for San Antonio police.

Sam called San Antonio police four times during the hours Claborn was harassing him. He said police showed up the first three times, but not the fourth. That last call was made right before Claborn set Sam’s car on fire.

Police responded to KSAT's request for information, and they said, "The neighbor called police at 0454 hours for a criminal mischief report. The call was held due to shift change and which time the neighbor called police again at 6:06. Daylight officers were then dispatched to the location."

The second issue Wuensche brought up was that her parents are both deaf and needed help processing information at the traumatizing scene. She said during the six-hour standoff, police were asked to send interpreters, but no one ever showed up.

San Antonio police told KSAT that protocol dictates that “if the police matter is serious and the individual cannot be escorted to the nearest Deaf link location, the officer shall request, through a supervisor, a qualified interpreter.”

The family maintains that an interpreter did not contact them at the scene.

San Antonio police Sgt. Michelle Ramos got back to KSAT after an information request with the following statement: “I was able to confirm that an interpreter did make the scene at 12:50 p.m."


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