Hospital shooting: patient shot and killed caseworker as gunfight broke out with psychiatrist

Hospital workers opened door to office to find Richard Plotts wielding a gun, closed the door again and called police

A psychiatrist who was grazed on his temple by gunfire took down a patient that had shot and killed a hospital case worker with his own weapon, after a gunfight broke out in an office at a suburban hospital in Pennsylvania where there is a strict no-guns policy.

Richard Plotts, a patient attending a wellness centre attached to the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, just outside of Philadelphia, walked into the psychiatrist’s office on Thursday and shot his case worker, a 53-year-old woman called Theresa Hunt, who was killed on site.

Hospital staff members reportedly heard loud arguing coming from inside the office, opened the door, and saw Mr Plotts pointing the gun at the psychiatrist. They closed the door again, and called police.

A gunfight then ensued between the patient and the psychiatrist, Dr Lee Silverman, inside the office. Dr Silverman, who had crouched down behind his desk when Ms Hunt had been shot to reach for his own weapon, was grazed on his temple during the shootout.

He then shot Mr Potts several times, leaving the patient critically injured, in what Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan called a “life or death situation”.

Mr Whelan said that at this point a struggle ensued, as the fight began to spill into the hallway on the third floor of the wellness centre, which is a teaching hospital.

Staff jumped in and wrestled Mr Plotts to the ground, securing his weapon. Mr Whelan said the staff acted “vigilantly, they acted bravely”

Authorities are still in the dark as to why Mr Plotts opened fire on his case worker and the psychiatrist.

“We do believe that there were some issues between the doctor and the patient, but whether or not he actually feared him is unclear,” Mr Whelan said.

“When the case worker was shot, [Silverman] crouched down behind the desk to avoid him being shot,” he added. “He was able to reach for his weapon, and realising it was a life or death situation, was able to engage the defendant in the exchange of gunfire.”

The shooting incident occurred in the American hospital despite the institution operating a strict no-guns policy.

The policy bars anyone from carrying weapons on the campus apart from on-duty law enforcement officers, but Yeadon Police Chief Donald Molineux said that “without a doubt, I believe this doctor saved lives”.

“Without that firearm, this guy [Plotts] could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition,” he added.

Mr Plotts, 49, underwent surgery on Thursday night. It is not known why either man was armed.

Additional reporting by Associated Press