Contributing Editor In the aftermath of what could have been a mass shooting at a hospital in suburban Philadelphia, the ability of a psychiatrist—one of the intended victims—to fight back because he was armed is being credited by a local police chief for stopping carnage.
Dr. Lee Silverman, 52, was grazed on the forehead by a bullet obviously meant to kill him, but instead, he took cover and returned fire, hitting alleged gunman Richard Plotts, 49, twice in the torso and once in the arm. The Associated Press confirmed that it is legal for Silverman to carry a gun, despite hospital regulations, and he will not be the subject of any criminal investigation.
Police Chief Donald Molineaux of nearby Yeadon was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer noting “Without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives. Without that firearm, this guy (the suspect) could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition.” Unfortunately, Silverman’s actions did not save 53-year-old Theresa Hunt, a hospital caseworker, who was apparently killed by the gunman’s first round after a short, loud and heated argument that occurred in a third-floor office at the Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center on the campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, PA.
Associated Press reported that, “The hospital has a policy barring anyone except on-duty law enforcement officers from carrying weapons anywhere on its campus,” citing a spokeswoman for the Mercy Health System. But the gun prohibition did not stop Plotts from bringing a gun to the building. Gun rights activists as far away as Seattle were quick to react to the shooting, noting that the case serves as strong evidence that an armed citizen in the right place at the right time can make a difference.
Various news reports quoted Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan indicating that all accounts of the shooting so far suggest the psychiatrist acted in self-defense. Published reports indicate that the suspect was “known” at the facility for past contacts. After Plotts was hit, he was wrestled to the floor by another doctor and a member of the clinic staff and held until police arrived. The Associated Press quoted Whelan saying that if Plotts recovers, he will face a murder charge.W&G