2 dead, 1 critical in Long Beach hospital shooting

April 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A hospital employee shot another employee to death, critically wounded another and then killed himself Thursday, police said. Police Chief Anthony Batts said the violence erupted just before noon at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

Batts would not identify those involved but said they were all male. He said the motive remained under investigation, but noted it came amid a flurry of recent shootings in the U.S.

"This is a trend of active shooters that you have seen nationwide," Batts told a press conference. "This is becoming a national trend, probably because of the tension that's going on in our society today."

Batts said officers responding to the 11:47 a.m. shooting found one victim inside the hospital and then found a second victim outside the emergency room. Both were taken to the emergency room; one was dead and the other was critical, he said.

The suspect was dead at the scene, he said.

City gas department worker Dave Chamberlain told KCAL-TV he heard five shots and then saw a man waving a gun outside the hospital shoot himself.

"We heard five shots and we took cover as well, and then ... we could see a man with a gun pointed at himself," he said.

A woman, Charity Perez, told the TV station her husband, a hospital valet, knew the gunman and identified him as a worker at a pharmacy.

A youth, Justin Hawkins, said doctors got people into rooms during the incident and then police arrived.

"The doctors did the best job possible," he told KCAL. They made us feel safe, they got us in the rooms as fast as possible, making sure nobody was in the hallways, making sure everyone was fine. And then the cops showed up really fast."

The approximately 460-bed hospital is one of six health care facilities in Southern California operated by the not-for-profit MemorialCare system, run by Memorial Health Services. The hospital has been located at its present campus since 1960.

Long Beach is about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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