A certified nursing assistant shot dead his colleague at Thomas Jefferson Teaching Hospital in Center City early Monday, then sparked a shootout with police four miles away before being apprehended, authorities said.
Two officers were injured in the early morning shooting near Fairmount Park in the Parkside section of town, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said. And the suspect – who was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying several weapons, including an AR-15 – was shot in the neck and upper body when police responded to him, she said.
Both officers were to survive, as was the suspected gunman, who law enforcement sources identified as Stacey Hayes, 55.
The crime stunned workers at one of the city’s busiest hospitals, rocked officers who responded to the violence, and devastated the friends and relatives of Anrae James, Jefferson’s aged nursing assistant. 43 year old who was fatally injured.
“When I got that call this morning I couldn’t believe it,” said James’ father William, who said his son was a gentle-mannered father of three from Elkins Park.
READ MORE: Nursing assistant shot dead by Jefferson Hospital colleague was father of three
It was the second fatal workplace shooting in less than a week in the city. And even amid the unprecedented levels of gun violence in Philadelphia this year, the hospital murder and subsequent police shootout have been particularly distressing.
âIt’s something you would typically see in a movie or a TV series,â Outlaw said.
Many questions remained unanswered on Monday as authorities continued their investigation. It is not known how or why Hayes came to the busy hospital to harm his colleague. Authorities had not specified what charges he might face. And they refused to identify the two injured officers or the two other officers who fired their guns except to say that they were all assigned to the 16th District of West Philadelphia.
Chesley Lightsey, chief of homicides at the district attorney’s office, said investigators believed Hayes and James were friends, but it was too early to be sure of the shooter’s motive.
Outlaw said: “We believe [James] was targeted. The reasons why, at this point, we still do not know.
Court records revealed another mystery: In June, Hayes successfully asked the courts to return four firearms to him, including two handguns, a shotgun and an AR-15 rifle.
Records do not say why the guns were seized in the first place, and the police department and the court system declined to comment on the case. The judge who signed the order – identified in court records as City Court Judge Crystal Bryant-Powell – did not immediately respond to a request for comment. And attempts to reach those close to Hayes failed on Monday.
In his petition, Hayes said he bought the guns legally and did not commit any crime.
“I’m not a threat to anyone, I just want to be able to protect myself and my family if necessary,” he wrote.
Outlaw said Monday’s episode began shortly after midnight, when police received a call reporting an active gunman on the ninth floor of Jefferson, which houses units for patients recovering from orthopedic surgery or a neurosurgery.
Outlaw said it was not clear if the suspect was working at the time, but was wearing scrubs and was in parts of the hospital that only employees can access. On one floor for surgical patients, the responsibilities of nursing assistants include helping patients with eating and getting to the bathroom, washing them and taking their vital signs, as well as storing patient rooms. for supplies used by nurses.
Homicide Captain Jason Smith said the shooting was captured on surveillance video that showed Hayes walking behind James – who was sitting at a workstation – and firing. James got up and tried to run away, Smith said, but Hayes followed him and continued firing his handgun. At least two passers-by could be seen nearby as the bullets flew in, Smith said.
Hayes didn’t appear to have a gun at the time, Smith said, and it didn’t appear he was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Outlaw said he was then released from the hospital.
About an hour later, he encountered police in West Philadelphia.
At around 1:25 a.m., Outlaw said, a passer-by reported officers at Parkside, near the school of the future, claiming that a man in a lab coat nearby had a gun and may have been firing shots in the air.
When the police approached him, she said, the suspect shot them. Two of the four police officers were shot, she said, and the police responded, hitting the man in the upper body and neck.
Outlaw said the injured officers had been assigned to the 16th District and had been with the force for six years. An officer was shot in the elbow and was in critical but stable condition awaiting surgery, she said. The other was shot in the nose and was in stable condition.
They were taken to the Penn Presbyterian for treatment. Hayes was also taken there in critical condition, police said.
Outside Jefferson later Monday morning, gowned healthcare workers poured into 11th Street during a shift change in the drizzle around 7 a.m. the shooting took place and his colleagues were “terrified”.
He said he did not know the victim but had seen him before.
“We did our best,” he said, “but we couldn’t save him.”
Employees were notified via text message just before 1 a.m. that there was an active shooter in the Gibbon building near 11th and Sansom streets.
âAdopt emergency procedures,â one reads. âRun, hide, fight. “
Employees from a nearby building said an official spoke over a loudspeaker and told them to take shelter in place. Some were barricaded in a break room for almost an hour.
Alexander Vaccaro, president of the Rothman Orthopedic Institute and president of orthopedic surgery in Jefferson, said: âThe nurses were like heroes in the way they reacted. They risked their lives.
Jefferson spokesperson John Brand said there was “a flood of sadness for all of us” after James’ death.
âOur hearts are broken as we come together to remember our colleague and recognize his teammates who tried to save him and protect other patients in the region,â he said.
He added that the hospital would conduct a review of the incident “to ensure best practices in our security protocols,” although he declined to provide details on how Hayes could have accessed a floor of hospital, shoot a gun, then get out.
The School of the Future, meanwhile, was closed on Monday as investigators placed dozens of evidence markers on the casings behind the building. Hayes’ Kevlar vest and weapons were visible on the ground until they were recovered by officers from the crime scene.
James’ friends and family remember a man who worked twice – at Jefferson’s and in a barber shop – to support his three children, ages 2, 11 and 17.
âMy son’s legacy is his children,â James’s father said.
The shots in Jefferson followed another workplace shooting on Friday in which Nassir Day, 25, a Pathways to Housing PA security guard in Logan, was shot and killed.
Outlaw said that such situations “are usually incidents that occur far and little in betweenâ¦ it is not supposed to happen so close to each other, but we are all ready to react and deal with it quickly. , and that is what we will continue to do. “
The shootings come in the middle of the city’s most violent year in decades. There have been at least 418 homicides in Philadelphia this year, according to police statistics, the highest number in early October in at least 35 years. Last year, the city recorded 499 homicides, and Philadelphia has not seen consecutive years exceeding 400 homicides since 1996.
âObviously the numbers are staggering, it’s heartbreaking in a lot of cases,â Outlaw said. âThere are a lot of miners involved, but that won’t stop us from doing what we are all committed to. “
Editors Marina Affo, Juliana Reyes, Sarah Gantz, Jason, Laughlin, Mensah M. Dean, Rob Tornoe, Barbara Laker, Harold Brubaker and Diane Mastrull contributed to this article.