Two dead, seven injured in Western Psych shooting



UPMC officials have released some information about the people who were wounded in a gunfight today at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Seven people are expected to survive injuries they suffered after a gunman entered the lobby of the clinic and opened fire. One person died, and the suspected gunman was killed by bullets fired by University of Pittsburgh police.

Dr. Donald Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine at UPMC, said five patients were being treated at UPMC Presbyterian, and two were treated and released. One had an injury not related to a gunshot wound.

Shootings leave witnesses, city stunned

Two people are dead, including a person who began firing from two semiautomatic handguns inside Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC on Thursday. (Video by Andrew Rush; 3/8/2012)

Mayor, medical personnel talk about shootings

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Dr. Donald Yealy and Claudia Roth, president of Western Psych, talk about the shootings that left two dead and several injured. (Video by Amanda King; 3/8/2012)

Raw video: Mayor arrives as victim is placed in ambulance

In this YouTube video, Mayor Ravenstahl is shown arriving at Western Psych as one of the victims of the shootings is loaded into an ambulance. (Video courtesy of Ilnar Fatykho; 3/8/2012)

Reaction in Oakland as shooting drama unfolds

Witnesses and passersby react to the unfolding drama in Oakland, where a series of shootings took place at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. (Video by Nate Guidry; 3/8/2012)

Police have not released the names of the injured, who included UPMC employees and a hospital visitor.

"I expect all of these patients to survive and do well," Dr. Yealy said.

Those being treated at Presby for gunshot wounds include a 46-year-old man, who was in fair condition; a 64-year-old woman, serious condition; a 54-year-old woman, fair condition; a 35-year-old male, fair condition; and a 49-year-old male, serious condition.

Earlier this evening, officials held a press conference to discuss the shootings but released little information.

A man began firing from two semiautomatic handguns inside Western Psych shortly before 2 p.m., officials said.

Kathryn Leight, 64, of Shaler, a receptionist at WPIC, is among the injured. She was shot four times but made it through surgery and is expected to survive, according to her stepson, John Leight Jr.

Her neighbors on Oak Avenue were dumbfounded by the news.

"It's a very close neighborhood, and everyone likes Kathy," said Rita Luniewski, who lives three doors down from Mrs. Leight.

The identities of the shooter and of the other person killed are not available, but one official on the scene said a University of Pittsburgh police officer shot the gunman.

"This was a tragic day, a sad day, a senseless day in many ways," Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said at the press conference, praising the "bravery" of police and hospital employees.

"What we're worrying about right now is patient care and taking care of all the wounded people," said UPMC spokesman Paul Wood.

Claudia Roth, president and CEO of WPIC, said at the evening press conference that UPMC officials were reviewing surveillance footage of the lobby to see whether cameras captured the incident. Five of the injured victims are clinic employees, she said; the sixth was visiting.

Police believe the gunman was roaming the first floor before he was killed. There were dozens of shell casings in the area.

The building has been secured, Mr. Wood said. He was firm that earlier reports of a second shooter or hostage situation were incorrect.

Officials said police had completed a floor-by-floor search of the building. SWAT teams from Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Port Authority and state police were called to the scene, along with bomb-detecting dogs.

The facility where the shooting occurred, at 3811 O'Hara St. in Oakland, is a 17-story, 60-year-old building that is officially called Thomas Detre Hall, named after the late, former head of UPMC.

Evacuation of staff and patients continued for hours. Children, many shoeless, were carried by staff members and loaded into the back an armored SWAT vehicle.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the shooter entered through a public area.

Security usually tight

Security is normally tight at Western Psych, according to those who work there.

A Pitt medical student who is in the psychiatry rotation at the facility said she saw Mrs. Leight every day and questioned the security at the entrance.

"She's been there since I've been in medical school. It's so awful," said the student, who asked that her name not be used.

"To be honest, I used to work at Bellevue Medical Center, a big medical and psychiatric hospital in New York, and you would have to go through metal detectors and there was a checkpoint. And when I came here, it was kind of shocking how little security there was.

"There were times you'd walk in and it would only be her. She would recognize me, but it just didn't seem like it was her job to stop people and ask them what they were doing there. I felt like there was very little security.

"It's not great for psychiatric patients to have to go through tons of security, but it does seem that there could be a balance."

She said a lot of the facility's staff was scheduled to have Friday off, but they are being called in.

"I think everyone's concerned about how the patients are going to be feeling, because they have a lot of problems, and being stuck in an institution where there's been a shooting is probably a challenge for the best of us."

Police flood in

A large crowd was drawn to the scene near the shootings, but they were kept away by scores of heavily armed police and SWAT team members who set up a perimeter around the hospital.

Police blocked off the area near Bouquet, De Soto and O'Hara streets.

Police were called shortly before 2 p.m. Scores of city police officers arrived and were reinforced by FBI agents, sheriff's deputies, state police troopers and members of the South Hills SWAT team.

UPMC hospitals in Oakland were put on a bronze alert at 1:58 p.m. for someone with a weapon in Western Psychiatric. The alert requires employees to stay where they are and respond to the alert with their exact location.

Rich Mellen said he was working on a roof of a nearby hotel when he saw dozens of police cars converge on the area.

It was "cops, cops and more cops," he said.

One woman, who did not give her name, said she and other nurses from Western Psychiatric were slowly returning from their lunch break when a woman yelled at them not to enter the building.

The woman said there was a shooter in the first floor lobby and that at least five people had been hit, including a Pitt police officer struck while walking in the front door.

She said she was grateful she and her friends had stalled their return to the hospital.

"A few seconds later and we would have been in the lobby," she said.

A message sent to Pitt employees at 2:08 p.m. said that several people have been injured and that "lock-down recommended until further notice."

It also said, "If safe to do so, tell others of this message."

Pitt is on break, so there are few students there.

After chaos, calm

Nearly two hours later, police and other authorities streamed in and out of the building's front entrance unhurried. A couple of dozen staff were escorted out in a line, as well. Two armored vehicles remained parked near the entrance, while staff in nearby Crabtree Hall were told to remain away from windows.

Several dozen people, including some middle and high school students attending a robotics competition, stood on the second floor of the Petersen Events Center, some licking ice cream.

Building security workers said no one is allowed to enter or exit the building until police clear the scene. All the main outside doors are locked.

A few people sat outside on the wet steps, waiting quietly as they wait for updates about a friend who works in the Western Psychiatric.

Where UPMC began

While it is most well known as the home to the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, the building is actually owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to UPMC's psychiatric and research units, it also houses the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry.

In it, the Western Psychiatric portion of the building houses Western Pennsylvania's largest psychiatric faclity, with 250 to 300 patients daily.

In addition, it is considered the place where UPMC had its beginnings as the region's dominant healthcare provider. It was at Western Psychiatric in 1973 that Dr. Detre, a psychiatrist and academic leader who died in 2010, got his start in Pittsburgh as director of Western Psychiatric.

He turned the facility into one of the largest grant recipients in the country, and he later lead the move for acquisitions and mergers of hospitals in the region that became UPMC.

neigh_city - breaking

First Published March 8, 2012 7:15 PM


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