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A doctor is being dubbed a hero, while officials are still trying to determine why a patient fatally shot a caseworker at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon.

Dr. Lee Silverman, a psychiatrist, told officials that the patient, Richard Plotts, shot a caseworker at their hospital before he pulled out his own gun and exchanged fire with him. Authorities identified the murdered caseworker as Theresa Hunt, 53, of Philadelphia. Hunt had accompanied Plotts to an appointment with Silverman at a psychiatric crisis center in the hospital complex, say authorities.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan explains:

“When the caseworker was shot, (Silverman) crouched down behind the desk to avoid him being shot. He was able to reach for his weapon and realizing it was a life or death situation, was able to engage the defendant in the exchange of gunfire.”

The struggle between Dr. Silverman and Plotts spilled out into the hallway, Whelan said. Another doctor and a caseworker jumped in to help Silverman and secure Plotts’ weapon.

The gunfire occurred on the third floor of the Wellness Center at Mercy Fitzgerald, a 204-bed community teaching hospital. Officers report that there were no surveillance cameras in the doctor’s office or the waiting area outside. The center also had no metal detectors. Patients waiting in the first-floor lobby reported a tense scene when police arrived and ordered everyone out. Most of the patients were elderly.

Although the doctor saved the day, a spokeswoman for the Mercy Health System said the hospital has a policy that bans the carrying of firearms, except by on-duty law enforcement officers, on its premises.

But Yeadon Police Chief Donald Molineux said:

“Without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives. Without that firearm, this guy (the patient) could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition.”

Whelan said Plotts, 49, underwent surgery Thursday evening at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Silverman was treated and released.


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