Medical center shooting leaves physician dead

Piercing the sense of security at Newport Beach's cherished medical center, an elderly man fired six to seven rounds in a doctor's office Monday afternoon, leaving a prominent urologist dead.

Dr. Ronald Gilbert, who practiced in the Hoag Hospital-affiliated complex at 520 Superior Ave., perished in the gunfire. The 52-year-old Huntington Harbour resident was married, with two children.

Stanwood Elkus, 75, of Lake Elsinore, shot Gilbert multiple times in the torso at about 2:45 p.m. in Gilbert's second-floor examination room, Newport Beach police said. He allegedly remained with the body for about seven minutes until police arrived.

"He was inside that room, and he was just sort of waiting there," Newport police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe said.

Gun deaths are rare in Newport Beach and the news reverberated through the cluster of medical buildings on Superior's well-traveled incline. Many residents seemed to know Gilbert, his associates or others who practice medicine in and around Hoag.

"I am terrified," said Kristin Crotty, who works on the third floor directly above Suite 240, where Gilbert and his partners operated a private practice. "I just want to get home to my family right now."

Inside, some workers locked their doors and hid. Others kept working, unaware of the shooting until they saw news reports on TVs in their offices or patients called to say police tape was keeping them from their appointments.

Many employees said they didn't hear the shooting or didn't identify the sound as gunshots.

"I blew it off as construction," Crotty said, explaining she thought it was a nail gun until she called building services and was told to lock the door because of a possible shooter in the building.

Some workers in the medical building craned against the windows, looking down at police leading Elkus, who was wearing a baseball cap, calmly out in handcuffs.

On Tuesday morning, the only indication of Monday's shooting was a white computer printout reading, "This office is closed today" on the office door to Orange Coast Urology.

Police believe Elkus may be a patient at the practice, Lowe said, and neighbors in Riverside told the Press-Enterprise newspaper that he had complained of prostate problems.

Officials searched his Lake Elsinore home Monday evening and took some items as evidence, she added.

Gilbert was on staff at Hoag for nearly 20 years. He joined Nov. 2, 1993, and served as chairman of the Urology Department between October 1998 and September 2002, according to a statement released Tuesday morning.

"Dr. Gilbert dedicated his career to serving others," Hoag President and Chief Executive Richard Afable said. "He was admired, respected and beloved by the Hoag family and will be deeply missed."

Gilbert received his medical degree from UC Irvine in 1987, according to his online biography. He was the chief technology officer of Absorption Pharmaceuticals, which sells a topical spray intended to prevent premature ejaculation.

At Orange Coast Urology, Gilbert specialized in general urology, sexual dysfunction and related surgeries, according to the practice's website.

"He was a very highly regarded physician, not only professionally but also personally, and has been quite the servant of this community," Afable said. "The evidence of that was his success as a practitioner."

Employees wearing scrubs or white lab coats huddled outside late Monday afternoon, unable to reenter the building after the shooting.

Others exited the building later in the evening, saying they went about their work as police investigated on the second floor.

Afable said Hoag's safety procedures were followed, although he wouldn't characterize them as a lockdown or evacuation.

Becky Calderwood works two doors down from the suite where the killing occurred and worried about her safety in a shooting.

"I sit right at the front desk; I would have caught the first bullet," she said. "This is nuts; people are just shooting everyone all the time."

Newport Beach detectives are working to determine a motive for the shooting.

Elkus legally purchased and registered the handgun allegedly used in the crime, Lowe said.

The Riverside Sheriff's Department said Elkus does not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Elkus was being held on a $1-million bond in Orange County Jail in Santa Ana and is expected in court Wednesday, jail records show.

Neighbors in his Riverside County neighborhood were shocked to hear about the shooting, they told the Los Angeles Times.

Sherry Martin, 58, said Elkus, a thin man who always wore a baseball cap, was known for riding his bike around the Riverside County neighborhood.

Jail records list him as 5 feet 8 inches tall and 162 pounds.

"He did everything on his bicycle," Martin said, adding Elkus was a retired barber who would sometimes offered haircuts to neighbors.

Elkus asked his neighbor, James Lord, to fix the brake pedal on his car Sunday, Lord said.

After Lord was done fixing the pedal, he said Elkus gave him $10 and wanted to let Lord keep the tool he used.

Lord tried to refuse the money and tool and remembered Elkus saying something like, "I'm not going to be alive much longer."

Lord said Elkus sometimes complained about his health problems and frequently visited the doctor.

"He didn't really seem disconnected or anything," he said.

Elkus had a disagreement with at least one neighbor. He took them to small claims court, alleging damage to his property.

In 2007, a couple filed a $10,000 civil suit against him, alleging he stalked and harassed them because of the disagreement.

They allege in court documents that Elkus would verbally threaten and harass them, their children and pets — peering into windows, incessantly riding his bicycle in the driveway or tailgating them in his car.

The parties settled the case in 2008, with Elkus paying the couple nothing.

At dusk Monday, maintenance workers gathered outside the crime-scene perimeter, waiting to get inside the building. A rabbi crossed under the police tape, praying as he walked to the scene.

In the Gilbert's Huntington Harbour neighborhood the same evening, neighbors described the family as deeply religious Jews.

"I have nothing but good things to say," Betty Combs said. "On Saturdays, [the Gilberts] dressed to the nines and walked to synagogue."

A man answered the door at Gilbert's large, hacienda-style home Tuesday morning, saying "we're really in a state of mourning right now."

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