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Published: Thursday, 4/16/2009

Police: 3 dead in California hospital shooting

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONG BEACH, Calif. A hospital worker shot and killed two employees and then killed himself at a medical center Thursday, sending panicked people fleeing, police and witnesses said.

The gunman was identified as Mario Ramirez, 50, of Alhambra, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

The victims were Hugo Bustamante, 46, of Cypress, who died at the scene, and Kelly Hales, 56, of Redondo Beach, who was taken to the hospital s emergency room in critical condition and died several hours later.

Police Chief Anthony Batts said the gunfire erupted just before noon at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. He said the motive remained under investigation but noted the violence came amid a flurry of recent shootings in the country.

This is a trend of active shooters that you have seen nationwide, Chief Batts said at a news conference.

This is becoming a national trend, probably because of the tension that s going on in our society today.

Hospital spokesman Stacie Crompton-Hime said all three men worked in an outpatient pharmacy where Mr. Bustamante was the manager and Ms. Hales was the executive director. Asked if the shooting stemmed from a dispute or possible layoffs at the hospital, Ms. Crompton-Hime said there were layoffs last month but no other reductions were planned.

Chief Batts said officers responding to the shooting found one victim inside the hospital and then discovered a second victim outside, on the north side of the hospital outside the emergency room. Ramirez was found dead outside on the north side.

Diana Hendel, the hospital s chief executive officer, said the victims families were receiving counseling through the hospital s chaplain service.

Carmen Ortiz, 47, a hospital housekeeper, said she was outside for her break when she heard a gunshot and saw people running away from the building. She said her manager rushed out and told her to get inside.

Then there was another shot, but I was inside, Ortiz said. I was very frightened.

Hospital worker Edward Collins trembled as he recounted coming upon the violence.

When I got off the elevator, I heard screams, Mr. Collins said. An upset friend told him she had just seen someone she knew shoot someone. Mr. Collins then saw the shooter holding what appeared to be a black handgun.

He was standing over the guy he shot, he said.

Mr. Collins said the gunman eventually pointed the gun at his own head and pulled the trigger.

Laura Harris told reporters she saw the shooter walk up, pull a gun, and shoot a hospital employee in the leg.

Then the young man fell and then he stood over him and shot a couple more times. Then he [the shooter] put the gun up under his chin, and shot himself, she said.



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