US man shoots doctor, mom, self

2010-09-17 12:31

Washington - A man distraught and enraged at hearing his mother's diagnosis shot her doctor on Thursday at the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital before killing her and taking his own life, police said.

Officials would not immediately elaborate on the mystery diagnosis that sparked the tragic shooting in Baltimore, Maryland but reports said the suspect's mother may have been paralysed after spinal surgery.

After initially identifying the 50-year-old gunman as Warren Davis, police later discovered this was an alias he gave to hospital staff and said his real name was Paul Warren Pardus of Arlington, Virginia.

Pardus shot and wounded the doctor before barricading himself in his mother's room as police Swat teams surrounded the building and snipers trained their sights on the eighth floor where he was holed up.

"Mr Davis was receiving some news about the care and the condition of his mother... when he became emotionally distraught and was overwhelmed by the news of his mother's condition," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters.

"During the course of the conversation with the doctor, Mr Davis removed a small semiautomatic handgun from his waistband area and fired a single gunshot that struck the doctor in the (lower) chest, upper abdomen," she said.

Doctor expected to recover

"The doctor collapsed just outside the doorway of the room and Mr Davis was last seen running into the room, brandishing the handgun in the direction of his mother, who was confined to the bed."

After a tense three-hour stand-off, police entered the room and found the suspect dead from a gunshot wound and his mother unresponsive in the bed, apparently killed by her son.

Baltimore police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said the doctor, named in media reports as orthopaedic surgeon David Cohen, was undergoing surgery but that his gunshot wounds were not thought to be life-threatening.

A nurse who was on the same floor at the time of the initial shooting told the Baltimore Sun newspaper that the suspect was angry about the treatment of his mother and was threatening to jump out of a window.

"I started running," she said. "When you hear gunshots you run."

Police were alerted when the hospital sounded an emergency alert at a thoracic centre on its East Baltimore campus, which was evacuated as Swat teams and negotiators arrived at the scene.

Best hospital in the world

"The victim is a faculty physician who is currently being treated at Hopkins," the hospital said in a statement.

Guglielmi initially said the doctor was in a "critical condition" but later issued a statement saying: "The doctor is going to be OK. He's in the best place in the world he could be."

The Johns Hopkins Hospital, founded by the 19th century philanthropist of the same name, is widely regarded as one of the world's greatest hospitals and has consistently been ranked as the best in the United States. It has more than 1000 beds and more than 1 700 full-time doctors.

It was the second high-profile shooting incident in little over two weeks in the small eastern US state of Maryland, located just north of the capital Washington.

On September 1, a radical environmentalist took three men hostage at the headquarters of the Discovery television channel in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring before being shot dead by police snipers.