Doctor Shot in Baldwin Park Hospital
Hundreds of people, including patients on gurneys and in wheelchairs, were evacuated from a hospital in Baldwin Park Friday after a gunman, described as elderly and pushing a walker or wheelchair, wounded a doctor in the third-floor urology department, sheriff’s deputies said.
Heavily armed sheriff’s deputies swarmed Kaiser Foundation Hospital after the 3 p.m. shooting and were still searching the 740,000-square-foot medical complex, room by room, close to midnight.
Officials said a hospital surveillance camera at an employee entrance captured an image of a man believed to be the attacker. They said the man, who may have been an outpatient, is in his late 60s or early 70s, has dark hair, a receding hairline and glasses. The video camera photo was taken a few minutes after the doctor was shot in an employee lounge, detectives said.
The doctor, who was not identified, underwent surgery at the hospital and was later reported in serious but stable condition in the intensive care ward, hospital officials said. He had been shot twice in the torso and once in an arm, said Michael Davis, a Baldwin Park police spokesman.
The motive for the shooting was unknown.
Deputies said a small fire broke out on the third floor at the same time as the shooting, but it was not known whether the two incidents were related. The fire was quickly extinguished.
Patients, visitors, doctors, nurses and clerical personnel poured out of the hospital after police and hospital officials told everyone whose presence was not essential to get out.
The evacuation was orderly, and there was no panic, witnesses said.
Nonnie Tavisola of Baldwin Park said she was in the emergency room waiting area at about 3:15 p.m. “when the lights started blinking and an alarm went off.”
She said one nurse announced that it was “just a drill,” and another said there was a fire on the third floor.
“Someone turned on the TV, and there we are,” said Rudy Lopez of Chino, another visitor in the ER waiting room. “Then the SWAT team came in like gangbusters.”
Tavisola said a SWAT officer called for everyone’s attention, telling them, “Right now, there’s a gunman running around. It’s not safe. You have to leave.”
She said that as she left, she heard a message on the hospital intercom: “Code Red. 303. Urology.”
Streets surrounding the hospital on the 1100 block of Baldwin Park Boulevard were clogged with police cars, fire engines and ambulances as the search for the gunman continued into the night. “We’re looking for a male in his 70s. That’s about all we have right now,” said Deputy Johnny Jones. “It’s a big place, and we’re trying to find him.”
Marcus Armendariz said he had taken his young son to the hospital’s orthopedics ward when he noticed an older man enter. He said the man left 15 minutes later, pushing a wheelchair with what appeared to be a yellow bowling ball bag in the seat. He said he appeared to be in a hurry and mumbled “Excuse me, excuse me,” as he bumped into patients.
“When he came in, he wasn’t sweating,” Armendariz said. “When he left he was sweating. That was suspicous that he was sweating.”
Alex Valdez, 17, of La Puente said his 53-year-old mother had been awaiting heart surgery when he was ordered to leave, and he hadn’t been able to get information about her.
“I don’t even know if they transported her to another hospital,” he said.
About 15 patients from the emergency room were transported to other hospitals. All other bedridden patients remained inside, and by 10:30 p.m. those who had been evacuated to the street had been returned to their rooms.
The hospital, about 17 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, has 272 beds and employs 230 doctors and nearly 2,300 support staff.
Times staff writers Monte Morin and Eric Malnic contributed to this report.