A man shot and killed by Tacoma police Friday night had bipolar disorder but had not been taking medication for the illness, his father said Saturday.

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A man shot and killed by Tacoma police Friday night had bipolar disorder but had not been taking medication for the illness, his father said Saturday.

Robert D. O’Connell, 42, of Tacoma, died after being shot several times in a shootout outside a gas station near the Port of Tacoma, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office said Saturday.

Police said O’Connell pulled out a handgun and fired three shots at two officers who approached him after they saw him “acting suspiciously” at a 76 gas station in the 1300 block of Puyallup Avenue about 7 p.m. Friday.

One shot narrowly missed the officers, striking the front of their patrol car, Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Saturday.

In addition to the handgun, police said they also found a large knife on O’Connell.

Fulghum said he didn’t know the nature of the suspicious behavior that had attracted the officers’ attention.

O’Connell, a veteran ironworker who worked on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge and stayed on as a maintenance worker, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder eight or nine years ago, said his father, Ron Besel.

O’Connell told his father he hadn’t taken psychiatric medications for 14 months and was seeing a naturopath who said the medications weren’t necessary, Besel said.

Besel, who lives in Bremerton, said he was worried about his son, and when he couldn’t reach him in recent days, he filed a missing-person report with police.

Police, however, found others had been in touch with O’Connell, Besel said.

“I just had a feeling he would get in trouble with the police one way or another,” Besel said.

Besel learned his son had been sent home from work Tuesday and that O’Connell’s supervisor visited him at home around noon Friday and made arrangements for him to see a doctor Monday to get back on medication.

“It was just a few hours too late,” Besel said.

According to police, O’Connell’s supervisor said he had been acting irrationally recently, calling himself the “Chosen One,” and he had been placed on administrative leave.

Besel said he doesn’t blame police for his son’s death.

“They didn’t take any drastic action. They had to defend themselves,” he said. “… You can’t fault them for that, no way. Too bad it had to be one of my kin. That’s life.”

Besel, a retired ironworker, worked on construction jobs with his son in Hawaii and Alaska. In 2006, his son changed his name from Besel to O’Connell — a variation on his mother’s family name — a change Besel said “was part of this mindset when he was on one of them [bipolar-related] roller coasters back then.”

O’Connell grew up in Bellevue, married, adopted his wife’s children from a previous marriage, and later divorced. He remained on good terms with his ex-wife and children, was a good worker and made friends easily, Besel said.

Besel said he didn’t know what O’Connell was doing at the gas station six miles from his apartment or how he got there. O’Connell’s pickup was broken down, Besel said.

The police officers involved in the shootout with O’Connell have been placed on administrative leave until completion of an internal investigation, Fulghum said. He did not identify the officers, but said they are 33 and 27 years old and have worked for the department 2 ½ and 3 ½ years, respectively.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com