OSHA probes safety protocol after Western Psych shootings
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Representatives of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday they are investigating the safety procedures that were in place when a gunman walked into Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and shot six employees, killing one of them.
"We're conducting an investigation into what we consider a workplace violence incident," OSHA's area director Robert Szymanski said.
The agency's investigators began their probe the day after John Shick, 30, went on a rampage in the lobby of the psychiatric hospital in Oakland, walking through the front doors armed with two handguns.
He killed 25-year-old Michael Schaab, a geriatric therapist who was returning to work from his lunch break, and wounded five other employees, including a receptionist who was struck four times.
Three University of Pittsburgh police officers fatally shot Mr. Shick.
"Our investigation is in its beginning stages," Mr. Szymanski said.
Such probes generally explore the safety policies, practices, guidelines of an employer and also what assessments and precautions have been taken, he said, declining to elaborate on what the Western Psych investigation will entail or what it has uncovered so far. The agency's work could take months.
"There are a number of things we consider, and some of them are industry specific," Mr. Szymanski said.
He would not say whether OSHA had sought or received Mr. Shick's medical records as part of its examination.
A UPMC spokeswoman declined to comment on the OSHA probe. She said that a university officer is stationed in the Western Psychiatric lobby for the time being as UPMC reviews security measures.
Police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki referred all questions about the shootings to Chief Nate Harper's office, which has declined to comment on the case.
On Tuesday, officials at Duquesne University said that a letter believed to have been sent by Mr. Schick on the day of the shooting had been turned over to authorities.
Police would not discuss the contents of the letter.
Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare confirmed the letter was received after the shooting and was relinquished, unopened, to Pittsburgh police. She would not say to whom it was addressed or how officials knew it was from Mr. Shick.
Mr. Shick was a graduate biology student at Duquesne until he was barred from the university's campus in November after the school said he harassed female students by text and email.
Also on Tuesday, Mary and Harry Schaab, the parents of Michael Schaab, visited with one of the other victims of the shooting in his hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian.
The man, a security guard, got in touch with the family to give his condolences, Mr. Schaab said.
"He just wanted to give us some closure," Mr. Schaab said in a phone interview.
The man, whose first name was Jeremy, told the Schaabs that he was near the entrance when Mr. Shick barged in, shooting him once in the leg. The man crumpled to the floor and told the Schaabs he watched as Mr. Shick shot the receptionist, Kathryn Leight, and then shot their son.
Mr. Shick then ran into another part of the building and two other employees attempted to help their son, he told them. But then Mr. Shick returned and began firing in their direction.
One employee was struck in the ankle as they fled.
Mr. Schaab said the man still seemed frightened as he relayed the account and wondered aloud why he had not been shot again, telling them he could have been dead, like their son.
"He still had fear in his eyes," he said.
First Published March 21, 2012 12:00 am