The Delaware County District Attorney's Office is still trying to pin down the exact motive for the shootout between a doctor and a psychiatric patient at a Delaware County hospital wellness center.
District Attorney Jack Whelan says Richard Plotts was upset about Mercy-Fitzgerald Hospital's ban on guns when he held Dr. Lee Silverman and Theresa Hunt hostage at the Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center on Thursday. The 49-year-old man then fired a .32 caliber revolver on the two, killing Hunt, who was his caseworker, and grazing the physician in the head, officials said.
"We feel like we lost a family member," said Hunt's neighbor Marge LaBrum. "When we used to say to her, 'Theresa, how do you take care of them when they're mentally ill and could hurt you?' she said 'It's a chance I have to take because I have to take care of them.'"
Silverman reportedly used a .32 caliber semi-automatic handgun he was carrying in his pocket to return fire on Plotts, shooting him in the stomach and the arm.
According to Whelan, Silverman routinely carried a gun to his workplace, despite the hospital's strict policy against it.
"It is against hospital policy for anyone, except for law enforcement on duty, to carry weapons while anywhere on our campus," Mercy-Fitzgerald hospital spokesman Bernice Mananallo Ho said.
Why the doctor was carrying a weapon and how long he had been coming to work armed is still unknown.
Delaware County officials say Silverman did have a gun permit from Montgomery County.
Police still do not know how Plotts, a convicted felon with a history of mental health problems, obtained the weapon he used in the shooting. Authorities say Plotts had 39 bullets in his pocket and may have intended to shoot others.
Mercy-Fitzgerald Hospital released a statement supporting the actions of Silverman, Dr. Jeffrey Dekret and John D'Alonzo, all hospital employees who intervened following the shooting.
"We are thankful for the swift action of Dr. Lee Silverman, Dr. Jeffrey Dekret, John D’Alonzo and the other colleagues and visitors who took brave and difficult action during yesterday’s tragic event. We extend our condolences to Theresa Hunt’s family, and we are praying for Dr. Silverman’s speedy recovery. We look forward to Dr. Silverman’s return to serving patients at our hospital. We will do all we can to support the victims during this difficult time," the statement read.
Hospital officials did not confirm whether they may consider changing the 'no guns' policy in light of the incident but said, "We are reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure a safe environment."