Patient, doctor exchange gunfire; caseworker killed

Caseworker was fatally shot in the incident

A patient fatally shot a caseworker at a suburban Philadelphia hospital on Thursday, before a psychiatrist and two other medical office workers stopped and secured his weapon, authorities say.

Richard Plotts entered a medical office on the third floor of the Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center at the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, on Thursday afternoon. Plotts—an outpatient at the facility with a history of unspecified psychiatric problems—arrived with his caseworker.

Soon after Plotts' arrival, staffers heard a loud argument. When they opened the door, they found the patient had a gun pointed at psychiatrist Lee Silverman. They closed the door and phoned 9-1-1. Moments later, they heard gunshots.

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Plotts fatally shot his caseworker, 53-year-old Theresa Hunt. He also wounded Silverman, grazing his temple with a bullet. According to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, Silverman crouched behind his desk and reached for his own gun. "[R]ealizing it was a life or death situation, [Silverman] was able to engage the defendant in the exchange of gunfire," Whelan says.

Plotts was shot at least three times in the incident. A struggle followed, spilling out into the hallways, where another physician and a caseworker stepped in to help Silverman and secured Plotts' gun.

"They acted vigilantly. They acted bravely," Whelan says.

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According to prosecutors, Potts had been involved in previous incidents with staff members. However, the motive of the incident remains unclear.

The wellness center was evacuated during the incident, and the entire campus was locked down for a short period as police officers ensured that the incident had been contained.

"This is a tragic event for our hospital and for our community, and we are praying for the safety of the victims," the hospital said in a release, adding, "We are grateful for the efforts of the emergency responders, and we are working with the Delaware County Police Departments to understand fully the details of the event and to do all we can to assist those affected" (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/24 [subscription required]; George, Philadelphia Business Journal, 7/24; AP/Wall Street Journal, 7/25; AP/CBS Philly, 7/24; Winter, USA Today, 7/25; Lattanzio, NBC Philadelphia, 7/25).


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