Pittsburgh police identify Western Psych gunman

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Pittsburgh police today identified the gunman who opened fire Thursday at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC as John Shick of Oakland.

Police said Mr. Shick, 30, killed after police say he shot to death one person and wounded several others inside Western Psych, was armed with two 9mm semiautomatic handguns. He also carried two fanny packs containing sandwich bags that held unidentified pills.

He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans, a raincoat and two watches. Police said there was nothing on his person to suggest a motive.

The Allegheny County medical examiner's office has not confirmed the identity of the gunman, saying any finding was "unofficial" if it did not come from their office.

Late this afternoon, police were searching Mr. Shick's home in the Royal York Apartments on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and North Dithridge Street in Oakland.

Scott Kunst, 43, said he lives three doors down from Mr. Shick's room on the fourth floor of the building. He and his fiance, Tracey Hilton, said they never knew him by name but when they saw his photo they had no doubt it was the "strange" man who lived down the hall.

Mr. Shick sometimes left yellow Post-Its on his door that said, "Now cleaning up vomit of pancreatitis. Please do not disturb," Mr. Kunst said. His room, which few people ever entered, often smelled like cleaning products, the pair said.

The building is home to many medical school students.

"We thought it was a med student joke," Mr. Kunst said of the notes.

That changed this week, when they said Mr. Shick acted strangely before asking someone in the building to call an ambulance and then vomited in the lobby.

Someone in the building told Ms. Hilton to be wary of Mr. Shick that night.

When news crews pulled up outside the building this afternoon, Mr. Kunst said he suspected almost immediately that Mr. Shick had been responsible for the shooting at Western Psych.

"You think that there's mental illness in the world, but you just don't think someone's capable of that," Mr. Kunst said, referring to yesterday's shooting.

Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said at a press conference today that Mr. Shick had something in his possession when he died that had his name on it but no formal identification.

Investigators believe Mr. Shick killed Michael Schaab, 25, a Western Psych therapist who worked with elderly patients, before University of Pittsburgh police officers arrived.

University of Pittsburgh police Chief Tim Delaney said six of his officers, who were separately patrolling the area, arrived at the hospital within minutes of hearing a call for shots fired inside the first-floor lobby.

They could hear gunfire from inside the building. Some rounds were fired out the door as they were entering.

The officers split into teams of three in "formation" and began to search for the gunman, the chief said.

He wasn't hard to find.

"As soon as the officers came in, his attention was at the officers," the chief said. "They engaged in gunfire the minute they got in the front door."

Three of them fired their guns at Mr. Shick, who was felled by their bullets.

Police were still trying to determine which Pitt officer fired the fatal shot. The officers' identities were not released.

The university officers receive "active shooter training" every six months, in which they learn how to respond to similar situations in a variety of environments, the chief said.

"This is what we prepare for and hope never happens," Chief Delaney said. "It happened."

Cmdr. Stangrecki said Mr. Shick was firing two handguns, both of which traced back to Texas and one of which was reported stolen from there. Officers at first believed there was more than one gunman, even after Mr. Shick was dead, because he was wielding two guns.

Like Mr. Schaab, Mr. Shick was pronounced dead at 3 p.m. Their bodies lay about a foot apart.

Surveillance footage shows the gunman walking straight through the front doors and people scattering as he fires, police said.

Armed with two semiautomatic handguns, police say Mr. Shick entered Western Psych in Oakland shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday and started firing.

Within minutes he was dead after trading fire with University of Pittsburgh police, but not before Mr. Schaab was fatally wounded and seven other people were injured.

All but one of the injured suffered gunshot wounds, including a Pitt police officer grazed by a bullet. Officials at UPMC Presbyterian said they expected all would survive.

Three Pitt police officers, who were close to Western Psych when the call came, traded gunfire with the man, though Pittsburgh police did not immediately know which of the officers' bullets struck him.

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

Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. First Published March 9, 2012 9:00 PM


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