A scary scene unfolded at a Pennsylvania hospital on Thursday that left a case worker dead and a doctor being hailed a hero. Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, just southwest of Philadelphia, is a “gun-free zone,” meaning guns are not permitted on the premises unless you are an on-duty police officer. However, Dr. Lee Silverman — the man being called a hero in this case — was not obeying those rules when he came to work Thursday and was carrying his weapon in his waistband.
A psychiatric patient, Richard Plotts, entered the building around 1:30 pm which was an hour before his scheduled appointment. According to the Washington Post, the shooting soon began, just before 2:30 pm during the patient’s appointment time. Dr. Silverman told police he was at his desk, behind a computer screen, when Plotts pulled a gun from his waistband and killed his case worker Theresa Hunt. The psychiatrist ducked behind a chair, pulled his gun from his pocket and fired off six or seven shots.
ABC News reports that Theresa Hunt was shot in the head at point blank range and that the patient then aimed the gun towards Dr. Silverman. Silverman was shot in the thumb and a bullet grazed his temple. However, he was able to engage in a close range gun battle with the patient by emptying his semi-automatic pistol at the gunman from behind his chair. Another case worker was then able to crawl through a window to the office, which was locked, to help subdue the armed patient until police could arrive.
Police said if it wasn’t for the gun-toting doctor, there could have been many more victims noting that Potts had another 39 bullets in his gun. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said:
“If the doctor did not have a firearm, (and) the doctor did not utilize the firearm, he’d be dead today, and I believe that other people in that facility would also be dead.”
Gun free zones at hospitals are common, but what would have happened if the doctor had adhered to these policies? Police personnel have admitted that it is a tough situation. Our current system for dealing with mental health risks is not working. Many violent gun offenders and mass shooters are mental health patients like Plotts, and Upper Darby police Superintendent Michael Chitwood doesn’t think the system handles them well, noting:
“The caseworkers and the doctors and the catchment centers — they know who violent individuals are, because they’re frequent fliers. And the system is not geared toward keeping these people housed somewhere until they start to be better. So you put whole communities at risk.”
It was also noted in the police report that Plotts had previously ranted at the hospital about the “gun free” policy, meaning he knew the building was a gun-free zone when he brought his weapon in for his mass killing spree. Unfortunately for Plotts, what he didn’t realize is that not all the staff were honoring that policy and he would be met in a gun battle on the gun-free campus.
Does this change your opinion of gun free zones? Is Doctor Silverman a hero for not abiding by the gun free zone policies and carrying his pistol, or should be punished for disobeying company policy? As it stands, the hospital is not taking any action against Doctor Silverman. In fact, the hospital released a statement noting that they were thankful for the “brave and difficult action” taken by Silverman and his colleagues and that Silverman remains a full member of the medical staff and “we look forward to Dr. Silverman’s return to serving patients at our hospital.”
[Image Credit: NY Daily News]