Gunman Kills 3 in Anaheim Hospital


A gunman who was despondent over the death of his mother and apparently seeking revenge on her former nurse went on a shooting rampage Tuesday in an Orange County hospital, killing three employees and sending patients and visitors diving for cover during a terrifying chase through hospital corridors.

The gunman, identified by police as Dung Trinh, 43, repeatedly shouted “You killed my mother!” during the deadly attack at the West Anaheim Medical Center. Apparently driven by the death of his 72-year-old mother less than an hour earlier at a nearby hospital, authorities said, he allegedly shot at his mother’s former nurse. The bullet instead struck and killed Marlene Mustaffa, a 60-year-old assistant nurse who was standing nearby, hospital officials said.

Two men, including a patient awaiting surgery, finally subdued Trinh after he burst into the hospital’s main lobby, chasing and shooting at maintenance director Ronald Robertson. Robertson, who was fatally wounded, turned and grabbed the gunman, ultimately leading to Trinh’s capture.


“He was shot right in front of me. I’ll never forget it,” said Faith Perry, who watched from the lobby with her 3- and 7-year-old children. “I was just trying to get my kids out of the way.”

Perry and other witnesses praised Robertson, 51, saying that the Fullerton man’s efforts to disarm Trinh prevented more bloodshed in the crowded waiting area. “God bless the man that did save our lives,” Perry said.

Robertson had heard the gunfire and rushed to prevent the attacker from reaching the lobby, said Dr. Robert McCauley, a hospital internist and former chief of staff. Robertson later died from his wounds.

Vincent Rosetti, 51, of Seal Beach was also killed during the midmorning attack. He was the director of the hospital’s pharmacy.

Mother, Son Described as Inseparable

Detectives arrested Trinh on suspicion of murder. They said he was driven by the death of his mother, Mot Trinh. The Trinhs shared a one-bedroom apartment in Anaheim and were described by neighbors as inseparable.

The mother suffered from diabetes, neighbors said, and was in a wheelchair. She was hurt in a fall three months ago, they added, and Trinh either quit his job or took a leave of absence to care for her full time.


In June, Trinh’s mother was treated at West Anaheim and released, said Anaheim Police Lt. Steve Walker. Trinh allegedly was targeting a nurse who had once cared for his mother there, authorities said.

About 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, Trinh took his mother to Anaheim Memorial West Hospital, where she died shortly after 10 a.m.

After her death, Trinh allegedly drove to West Anaheim Medical Center, armed with a .357 magnum handgun and a pouch of bullets, according to police, hospital officials and witnesses.

Patients and visitors recalled their terror as they heard the gunfire inside the hospital Tuesday. They said the shooting began on the second floor.

“Nurses were screaming and crying. Everybody was looking for a place to hide,” said Angelina Trinidad of Stanton who had been visiting her fiance in the coronary care unit when she heard the shots. She closed the door to her fiance’s room and waited.

Paula Wagner said her mother, who was in Room 212 awaiting surgery, called her at home during the shooting. In the background, Wagner could hear shots and screams as her mother became increasingly frantic.


“She was screaming, ‘Paula, come and help me! I’m gonna die,’ and she was crying. And I was telling her to close the door, and in the end I had to hang up,” Wagner said. “All I could think about was getting out there.”

Her mother later told her that she had gotten out of bed and saw a body sprawled outside her door, Wagner said. Mustaffa was fatally shot in the meeting room opposite Room 212, police said.

Gail Anderson was in Room 203 with her 78-year-old mother, who was about to undergo bypass surgery, when she heard three shots from down the corridor.

Worried that the gunman might return, Anderson shut the door and waited.

But the gunman did not return. Instead, he continued through the hospital corridor, shooting Rosetti between the stairwell and the elevator, McCauley said.

Rosetti was answering a call for assistance put over the hospital’s public address system just moments before the shooting, McCauley said. A nurse put out the call after seeing a man acting suspiciously.

Then the attacker ran down a hallway toward the main lobby, chasing Robertson, his third victim.


Perry, who was sitting in the lobby, heard shouts coming closer and then saw the gunman fire at Robertson.

The Vietnam veteran then tried to shut the double doors leading to the lobby, witnesses said, presumably to prevent the gunman from reaching the crowded area. The gunman began struggling with Robertson and they fell to the floor, where the attacker fired two more shots at close range.

Joe Nuzzo, who had been sitting in the lobby awaiting rotator cuff surgery, watched the struggle from 15 feet away. After he saw a handgun and ammunition fall to the floor, Nuzzo and a hospital worker lunged into the fray, trying to subdue the attacker.

“I didn’t know who to grab,” the Huntington Beach man said in an interview, “but they were fighting for their lives. You could see that.”

Nuzzo, 55, grabbed the gunman’s leg and wrist, and held him for more than five minutes until police arrived.

“It felt like an hour,” he said. “All kinds of people were coming in, but no police.”

As Trinh lay on the ground shouting, hospital staff members attended to Robertson.

“He was leaning on a wall, then on his knees,” Nuzzo said. “Finally he collapsed. . . . He really was a hero.”


Robertson worked at the hospital for 10 years and was in charge of housekeeping, the handling of hazardous materials and much of the hospital’s day-to-day functions.

Colleagues remembered the other two victims for their service to others. Rosetti was an accomplished pharmacist who had won an award from the World Health Organization. Mustaffa had worked at the hospital for 10 years and was a certified nursing assistant. She recently had gone to night school to improve her position at work.

The shooting was the most violent hospital attack in Orange County history.

Administrators at the private, 219-bed hospital recently had installed bulletproof glass in the emergency room after another man entered the facility about a year ago waving a pistol, said McCauley.

When procedures fail or when a loved one dies unexpectedly, McCauley said, emotions can run high among the patient’s relatives. “There’s a whole lot of anger in the hospital, particularly if they think the patient is not treated well,” he said. “I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often.”

Metal Detectors Deemed Unnecessary

Some urban hospitals, including several in Los Angeles, use metal detectors and armed guards to screen visitors for weapons. But those measures have been considered unnecessary in Orange County, hospital and security officials said Tuesday.

“Metal detectors are cost-prohibitive and they are employee-intensive,” said Anthony Person of American Protective Services, which does security at 58 hospitals nationwide, including three in Orange County. “Someone has to screen the people, and you have to figure out what to do with weapons when you confiscate. It is too extreme.”


Hospitals must strike a balance between safety and access among employees, patients and visitors, officials said.

“This is not airport security,” said Bob Fraschetti, chief executive officer at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton. “People are coming here to see and treat patients, so you do the best you can with what you are dealing with. Hospitals are supposed to be a place of healing, they are not supposed to be fortresses.”

Instead, most hospitals in Orange County employ guards trained to deal with the difficult emotional environment of hospitals rather than safety concerns, according to security and hospital officials.

Security at hospitals can range from a civilian greeter to a security guard, officials said. Some hospitals employ surveillance cameras, as well as an identification system for visitors and employees.

In many cases, security is directed at emergency rooms, which now have locked areas in compliance with a new state law.

“Security ranges across a spectrum depending on what the facility believes they need to have based on past experience and the area they are located,” said Jon Gilwee, vice president of the Healthcare Assn. of Southern California, a hospital trade group.


Gilwee and others said the killings Tuesday probably would lead to a reassessment of security at hospitals throughout the area, though he could not say what changes might follow.

“I don’t think anyone truly anticipates that happening in a hospital any more than anyone else expects it in their workplace, but it does happen,” said Steve Geidt, senior vice president at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. “The uniqueness of hospitals is it is not just employees but it is also patients, who are under our care. Perhaps that creates an added need for security, but it also puts us in a slightly different category.”


Times staff writer Brady McDonald and correspondents Jason Kandel and Louisa Roug contributed to this story.


Medical Center Tragedy

A gunman opened fire inside West Anaheim Medical Center on Tuesday, killing three hospital workers before being captured in the lobby, police said.


Sources: Anaheim Police Department, Anaheim Building Department, Anaheim Fire Department, West Anaheim Medical Center