Gunman wounds 3 doctors in 5-hour standoff

February 09, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- A disgruntled patient demanding painkillers opened fire in the emergency room of Los Angeles

County-University of Southern California Medical Center yesterday, critically wounding three doctors and holding two women hostage for nearly five hours before surrendering, authorities said.

Dimacio Ybarra Torres, 40, of Los Angeles was taken into custody at 5:10 p.m. PST (8:10 pm. EST) and booked for an investigation of attempted murder after bringing emergency care a virtual standstill for most of the afternoon at the nation's largest acute-care hospital.

The gunfire, which forced the evacuation of dozens of hospital employees and sent hundreds of hysterical patients running for their lives, erupted about 12:20 p.m. in the most crowded of the hospital's three emergency rooms, the one reserved for walk-in patients, officials said.

Witnesses said a man -- his head shaved, his camouflage jacket concealing a knife and three loaded guns -- had been pacing for about 10 minutes through a crowd of more than 100 ailing people lined up in the hallways of the Ambulatory Care Unit.

The unit is a port of entry at the hospital, where patients without appointments are diagnosed by three triage doctors who interview them at partitioned desks near the door to separate those with routine illnesses from people in need of emergency care. The patients, who are often poor and uninsured, take a number and wait for treatment -- sometimes for hours.

Witnesses said the gunman grew more and more agitated as his wait for care dragged on.

"Goddamn, give me something for my pain! Can't you give me something for my pain?" Hope Flynn, a patient, heard him cry at one point. Witnesses said he strode up to the bank of doctors near the door and opened fire in what one called "a rain of bullets."

Hospital officials identified the wounded men as Drs. Glen Roger, 41; Paul Kazubowski, 44, and Richard May, 47. All were listed late yesterday in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, although Dr. May -- described by colleagues as a dedicated and caring physician -- reportedly was near death, having been shot point-blank in the head and chest.

Hospital security guards pursued the man to a first-floor X-ray room but were too late to prevent him from taking two hostages: Lilly Bragg, a 54-year-old receptionist, and Dr. Ann Tournay, a 32-year-old physician spending her first day on the job.

Barricading himself with the two women in the room, the gunman negotiated sporadically throughout the afternoon with a Los Angeles Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics Team. LAPD Sgt. Alex Salazar said the man at one point told police that he was in no hurry.

"He said normally he goes in and has to wait forever," Sergeant Salazar said. "So now, he says, 'It's your turn.' "

Finally, at 5:08 p.m., the gunman was persuaded to release the hostages, who were visibly shaken but otherwise unharmed. Two minutes later, he gave himself up to police without further incident.

After the surrender, police recovered a .44-caliber Magnum revolver, a .38-caliber automatic pistol, a sawed-off rifle and a hunting knife, said Deputy Police Chief Robert Gil.

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