Gunfire erupted in a maternity unit of an Oregon hospital over the weekend, fatally wounding an unarmed security guard and leading to renewed calls Monday to protect health care workers from increasing violence.
Gun violence in America has hit supermarkets, churches, a synagogue, schools — and now a birthing center.
Police were summoned Saturday morning to Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland, with callers reporting that a man with a gun was threatening hospital workers, Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen said. By the time the officers arrived, shots had been fired and security guard Bobby Smallwood lay mortally wounded. Another hospital staffer was hit by fragments.
Police feared the worst.
“Officers believed this had the possibility of being an active shooter incident, so they converged on the hospital from all corners of Portland in a full-city response to address the shooter, assist with a possible mass casualty event, and evacuate those in harm’s way,” the Portland Police Bureau said Monday in a statement.
Workers and patients were told to shelter in place as officers searched for the shooter. He was located hours later in a van in suburban Gresham and was fatally shot by three Portland police officers, the PPB said. No details on that confrontation were released.
Smallwood, who was 44 and originally from Florida, was attended to by staff and then taken to another hospital with the highest-level trauma care, where he died.
“Please pray for my family as we lost my cousin Bobby Smallwood yesterday as he was protecting the birthing center at a hospital,” his cousin Rachel Milligan Moreno, from Brandon, Florida, wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “Our hearts are broken.”
The gunman’s name was PoniaX Kane Calles, a 33-year-old who previously went by the name Reginald Kane Jackson, KPTV, a Portland TV station, reported.
Allen told reporters that it is especially tragic that deadly gunfire erupted at Good Sam, as the hospital is known, which he said should be a place of safety. The Oregon Nurses Association said Monday that violence directed at health care workers has increased at an alarming rate.
“It is the responsibility of every health care system and hospital administration in Oregon to do everything in their power to protect the safety of their patients and frontline caregivers,” the union said.
It was the second time this month that a health care worker was killed in the Portland area. On July 16, a resident of a mental health care facility in Gresham allegedly stabbed to death a caregiver who was working the night shift alone.
Legacy Good Samaritan is rated as one of the best in Oregon. A video for the family birth center says patients are given private birthing suites. No alcohol, recreational drugs or firearms are allowed.
“We care deeply about your family’s safety,” the narrator says in the video, which shows a screen with multiple images from security cameras.
When asked Monday about security measures, the hospital declined to describe them, saying in a statement that staffers are “grief-stricken.”
“We are focused on providing factual information to our employees and supporting those deeply impacted by this tragic event,” the statement said, promising to provide additional information later this week.