A man’s voice broke through the bustle at St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Siena campus early Wednesday as Stan Shapiro sat helpless in the emergency room triage area.
He wanted to donate his organs, Shapiro heard the man say. Shortly after that, Shapiro said six to eight gunshots were fired from a high-caliber weapon.
The 65-year-old songwriter for the Beach Boys, who had been whisked into the emergency room Tuesday afternoon because of a blood clot in his leg, couldn’t see much because a curtain surrounded his gurney in stall 11.
He panicked when the shots rang out.
“That’s more frightening than anything,” he said. “It’s like your heart just really beats hard, and I thought, ‘Jeez, I’m going to have a heart attack.’”
The emergency room then went dark. Patients started screaming before the lights flicked on again. Nurses shouted to have patients removed from the area. Shapiro saw wheels and feet whiz by in the space between the floor and the curtain surrounding him.
Shapiro didn’t find out until much later that Henderson police had shot and killed a man in the hospital’s emergency room. The man was wielding a handgun. Police believe he might have been suicidal.
Police said the 48-year-old unidentified Las Vegan who was shot pointed a gun at officers.
Officers were evacuating the hospital’s emergency room area of about 30 patients and staff when the shooting happened, police said. No bystanders were injured. The man entered the hospital emergency room at 3100 St. Rose Parkway just before 1 a.m.
Henderson police spokesman Todd Rasmussen said two officers fired their weapons after the man disobeyed orders to drop his gun. Instead, the man who was dressed in a “green, military-type jacket” pointed the weapon at officers, Rasmussen said.
“It was a very dynamic, and volatile situation,” Rasmussen said. “It was unfortunate that this man lost his life. But we’re glad that no hospital staff, patients or officers were injured.”
The wounded man was taken to another part of the hospital for treatment but died a short time later.
Two additional officers who were near the gunman did not fire their weapons, Rasmussen said.
He did not want to speculate about whether the man intended to commit “suicide by cop,” the act of forcing police to shoot by acting combative.
Rasmussen said police will work with the Clark County coroner’s office and the deceased man’s family to determine his motives and why he was at the hospital.
Police responded minutes after being alerted to the situation by a nurse who called 911. She said an armed man was in the emergency room and claimed he was suicidal. His hands were in his pockets, the nurse told the dispatcher.
After the shooting, Shapiro said minutes passed before someone in a pair of trousers and black boots stopped at his gurney. An officer pulled back the curtain and asked if he was all right. He was.
Later, as Shapiro was being taken to a different room, he saw hospital staff patching up holes in the wall. He thought they were caused by gunshots.
The name of the two officers who fired their weapons will be released within 48 hours of the incident per Henderson police policy. They have been placed on paid leave pending a coroner’s Inquest.
Sasha Jackowich, a St. Rose spokeswoman, said the Siena campus employs armed security positioned inside the emergency room 24 hours a day. There were also security guards west of the campus when the armed man entered the hospital. Jackowich said police are the hospital’s primary security measure in such cases.
Jackowich said hospital security is adequate, but that security protocols will be reviewed.
“In light of the situation, we’re also looking at specifics and evaluating if there are additional measures we can take in the future,” Jackowich said.
She said the hospital was immediately placed on lockdown when officials learned of the gunman. She said she was proud of how hospital staff handled the crisis.
“What’s important for us is thinking about ways that we might be able to control situations like this,” she said. “But it’s difficult to say you could ever prevent a situation.”
Al Martinez, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, said he didn’t hear any complaints about security when he spoke briefly to some of St. Rose’s nurses on Wednesday. He plans to follow up with them this week.
“My goal is that we listen to these nurses and their concerns,” he said.
He said the nurses were shaken by the incident.
Dr. Dale Carrison, chairman of University Medical Center’s emergency department, said hospital security “is an issue, has been an issue and will always be an issue.”
Carrison, a former FBI agent and deputy sheriff in California, said security at hospitals nationwide generally include armed or unarmed guards.
Carrison described emergency rooms as the most dangerous places in hospitals because it’s where staff engage walk-ins and people who have not yet been treated. Also, it’s difficult to know what patients are carrying in their pockets, he said.
Carrison said police may never know why the man was at St. Rose early Wednesday. If he was mentally disturbed, he might have been seeking help.
“He could have been there to get treatment,” Carrison said. “He could have been there because he was mentally ill. We’ll never know. We do know we treat disturbed people in addition to people who have medical emergencies.”
Some hospitals do use metal detectors, but Carrison is not convinced that’s a solution. The machines would increase health care costs and present logistical issues in terms of placement. He also said someone who wants to sneak a gun into a hospital will most likely find a way.
“We’re not police. We’re physicians and nurses,” he said. “We don’t want to be an armed camp.”
Review-Journal writer Maggie Lillis contributed to this report. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at email@example.com or 702-383-4638.