Internal reports say Shick's behavior worried UPMC workers
March 20, 2014 11:27 PM
John Shick is subdued by police after an altercation in 2009 in Portland, Ore.
By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In the weeks before John Shick shot six people at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in 2012, he twice entered other UPMC facilities with a baseball bat, banging it on a counter in one instance and spurring enough concern during another that an employee pressed a panic alarm, according to newly released internal reports that include the most detailed information to date about the encounters.
"Shick uses the baseball bat as a cane," one UPMC Police and Security Services report said, documenting a Feb. 20, 2012 encounter, "but staff was concerned that the bat could also be used as a weapon, and felt threatened."
The reports were included as exhibits in a filing Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court by Am-Gard Security Inc.
The company was named -- along with UPMC -- as one of several defendants in a lawsuit brought by Western Psych receptionist Kathryn Leight.
Ms. Leight was wounded by Shick, as were four other UPMC employees, when the 30-year-old schizophrenic entered the Oakland psychiatric hospital March 8, 2012 with two handguns.
A sixth employee, 25-year-old milieu therapist Michael Schaab, was killed.
Police fatally shot Shick.
In the aftermath of the shooting, UPMC refused requests by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to release its internal police reports about previous interactions between Shick and hospital security.
The hospital system subsequently said court orders prevented it from releasing the paperwork, but a judge recently ordered UPMC to release copies of the reports to the parties to the lawsuit, which it did last month.
Shortly after the shooting, county District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. described Shick's behavior during the 2012 incidents involving the baseball bat on Feb. 10 and Feb. 20 as "menacing," but UPMC played down the encounters.
Mr. Zappala argued that Shick's behavior should have triggered an involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital.
UPMC, however, has maintained that nothing Shick did rose to the level required under the law for such a commitment.
"The feeling of being threatened is not the same as actually being threatened, and it is not enough for a 302 [involuntary] commitment. A 302 requires an actionable behavior, not simply a threat," Gloria Kreps, a UPMC spokeswoman, said Thursday.
"In this incident, he did not meet the law's specifications for an involuntary commitment."
The law requires that someone be a "clear and present danger" by threatening harm to himself or others, among other things.
"He had a bat. He was using it as a cane. Never made any menacing moves, threatening behavior," UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said in a Post-Gazette story published April 1, 2012.
Ms. Kreps did not address a number of other questions about the security report.
The first report concerns an incident at UPMC's Family Health Center in Shadyside. On Feb. 10, 2012, around 10:28 a.m. three security guards were dispatched to the second-floor waiting area because Shick showed up without an appointment and banged a baseball bat on the receptionist's counter.
As the nursing manager spoke to the security guards, Shick left, using the baseball bat as a cane. One of the guards followed Shick off UPMC property, and the incident was resolved.
Ten days later, Shick arrived at UPMC's Professional Office Building 1 in Shadyside around 12:14 p.m. Two security officers were dispatched in response to a panic alarm triggered by a staff member.
Shick, a patient, was walking toward the exit when the officers arrived, the report said. He was again using the bat as a cane.
The officers followed Shick. One of them, identified as supervisor Ray Tutko, "explained that while on hospital property, Shick can turn his bat in and use a cane that would be provided for him."
Security officers clearly knew who Shick was; their reports include his name, date of birth, address and phone number.
One spot on the reports asks whether "Criminal Justice Action Taken." The response on both forms is "No."
At the time, then-Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper said police "should have been called" in response to the baseball bat incidents.
In its filing, Am-Gard asked for a motion for summary judgment.
Ms. Leight's attorney, Mark Homyak, said he would not object. He said he sued Am-Gard based upon initial information provided by UPMC that incorrectly identified which security personnel interacted with Shick.