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Home > Topics > Fatal Incidents

1 killed, doctor fires back at Pa. hospital gunman

The patient opened fire after entering the doctor's office at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital with the caseworker, who was killed

The Associated Press

DARBY, Pa. — A psychiatrist who was grazed by gunfire from a patient at a hospital on Thursday helped stop the patient by apparently using his own weapon to shoot and wound him, but not before a caseworker was killed, authorities said.

The patient opened fire after entering the doctor's office at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital with the caseworker, District Attorney Jack Whelan said. Witnesses reported hearing yelling before the gunshots.

Several hours after the shooting, investigators had only limited information about what happened inside the closed office but believe the psychiatrist, "from all accounts, would have acted in self-defense," Whelan said.

The doctor, who suffered a wound to his head, "faced a situation where his life was in jeopardy," Whelan said. He was expected to be interviewed by detectives late Thursday.

The hospital has a policy barring anyone except on-duty law enforcement officers from carrying weapons anywhere on its campus, a spokeswoman for the Mercy Health System said.

But Yeadon Police Chief Donald Molineux said that "without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives."

"Without that firearm, this guy (the patient) could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition," the chief said.

The dead caseworker was identified only as a 53-year-old Philadelphia woman. Police were working to notify her relatives late Thursday.

Two guns were recovered, Whelan said. Authorities said the motive for the shooting was unknown.

The patient, who was critically injured and was being treated, was identified as Richard Plotts, an Upper Darby resident in his mid-30s.

The prosecutor said Plotts had been involved in previous incidents with staff, but he did not know their nature. He also said he did not know if that is why the doctor had a gun or if the doctor would have been required to have a permit.

After the door of the office was closed, staff members heard loud arguing inside, opened the door and noticed the patient had a gun pointed at the doctor, Whelan said. They closed the door and dialed 911. Gunshots were heard a short time later, just before 2:30 p.m.

Plotts emerged from the office, and another doctor and a caseworker helped wrestle him to the floor of the hallway and grabbed his weapon, Whelan said. By that point he had already been severely wounded from several shots, Whelan said.

"They acted vigilantly. They acted bravely," he said.

The exchange of gunfire occurred on the third floor of the Wellness Center at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, a 204-bed community teaching hospital just southwest of Philadelphia.

Authorities said there are no surveillance cameras in the doctor's office or the waiting area outside. They also said the center had no metal detectors.

"Do you evaluate that now ... in light of this incident to make sure people are safe, especially in what can be a dangerous environment?" Whelan asked.

Patients waiting in the first-floor lobby reported a tense scene when police arrived and ordered everyone out. Most of the patients were elderly.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

"I dozed off, and I heard the cop shouting, 'Come on, come on, get out!'" said Millicent Russell, 73, of Lansdowne, who was waiting for a 3 p.m. appointment. "There were people with walkers and canes and stuff. All these cops were outside running here and there with these guns."

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Scot StClair Scot StClair Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:49:11 PM What's that, anti-gun lobby? I can't hear you over the sound of Dr. Badass saving lives.
Kevin Wright Kevin Wright Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:28:44 PM Think the Hospital needs to rethink its policy . !!
Steve Steiner Steve Steiner Friday, July 25, 2014 6:45:44 AM They'll probably fire the doctor for violating policy. :smh:
Jeffrey Flaker Jeffrey Flaker Friday, July 25, 2014 9:15:06 AM Good guy with a gun shoots bad guy with a gun - I don't have a problem with this.
Jesse Bell Jesse Bell Friday, July 25, 2014 2:50:56 PM They'll find some way to turn this into an anti-gun rant.
Paul Russell Sr Paul Russell Sr Friday, July 25, 2014 5:45:09 PM Good job by doctor , but may need a little more target practice. Now the tax payers have to support the nut for what he did. Should have drilled him between the eyes.
Paul Russell Sr Paul Russell Sr Friday, July 25, 2014 5:46:36 PM Patient broke the hospitals gun free zone rules. Got what he needed a few more holes in his sorry body.
Steven T. Cornella Sr Steven T. Cornella Sr Friday, July 25, 2014 7:19:29 PM The Dr. has ever right to CCW ......if he's has a permit he ok ..PA still has not mandated the CCW LAW as of yet but there trying very hard to do so .Beside No one know the circumstances as lond as the Dr. did not have the weapon on person in the Hospital .. he violated no laws,,He could have very well went to his Vehicle and got it ........................I see no problem as to what he did .I think he thought quickly and stopped a Sick individual in his tracks End of Story.........
Ian R Frankel Ian R Frankel Saturday, July 26, 2014 7:18:15 AM Oops, violated policy, bye-bye Dr. But thanks for saving those people.
Crystal Schilling Crystal Schilling Saturday, July 26, 2014 2:16:23 PM ...except that the article clearly states he was behind closed doors with the gunman.
Cölton R. Dean Cölton R. Dean Thursday, July 31, 2014 5:22:02 AM Nothing wrong with trained, licensed people choosing to carry for self-defense.

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