Hospital shooting suspect charged with murder

July 27, 2014 - 11:04 AM
APTOPIX Hospital Shooting

A hospital worker views police activity near the scene of a shooting at a wellness center attached to Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. A doctor grazed by gunfire from a patient who had entered his office in a suburban hospital's psychiatric unit stopped him by returning fire with his own gun and injuring him, authorities said. (AP Photo)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

Richard Plotts was arraigned late Saturday at his hospital bedside after emerging from sedation, said Emily Harris, spokeswoman for the Delaware County district attorney's office.

Plotts, 49, was ranting about Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital's gun ban Thursday before he shot 53-year-old caseworker Theresa Hunt during an appointment, authorities said. Psychiatrist Lee Silverman crouched behind a chair and pulled out his own gun, firing several shots at Plotts, authorities said.

Plotts had 39 unspent bullets on him when he was wrestled to the ground, police said. Two guns, including a revolver that police said he used to kill Hunt, were found at the scene.

"If the doctor did not have a firearm, (and) the doctor did not utilize the firearm, he'd be dead today, and I believe that other people in that facility would also be dead," District Attorney Jack Whelan said Saturday.

Hunt's brother, Dennis, told WPVI-TV that she was strong and good-hearted. The family called her "Mother Theresa," he said.

Silverman, who was struck in the thumb and grazed in the temple but not seriously injured, hasn't spoken publicly about the encounter.

Police seized two additional guns when they searched Plotts' home in Clifton Heights, Whelan said.

Plotts is being guarded by police as he recuperates from his wounds at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

It was unclear whether Plotts, who lived alone, has a lawyer or relatives in the area. A call to his lawyer from an earlier case wasn't returned.

Police in Upper Darby, where Plotts once lived, cited at least three mental health commitments, including one after he cut his wrists and one after he threatened suicide. His record also includes past assault, drug and gun charges, according to police and court records.