Police: Man upset over mother's care at Hopkins kills her, himself

  • Harry Koffenberger, standing right in dark suit, vice president of Corporate Security for Johns Hopkins Hospital, talked about security measures, such as identification badges, used at the hospital while addressing the news media.
Harry Koffenberger, standing right in dark suit, vice president… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
September 17, 2010|By Justin Fenton, Erica L. Green and Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

Paul Warren Pardus spent restless nights with his ailing mother at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and when he believed doctors had failed her, the 50-year-old shot her physician before killing his mother and himself.

Pardus was a fixture in the room since last week, after his 84-year-old mother, Jean Davis, was brought there for surgery related to cancer treatment. While speaking to Dr. David B. Cohen around 11 a.m., Pardus pulled a semiautomatic handgun from his waistband, shot Cohen in the abdomen and ran into her hospital room.

Cohen was rushed into surgery but is expected to recover. For three hours after the shooting, police treated the situation as a standoff, in which some parts of the sprawling East Baltimore campus were locked down and others were evacuated. Snipers took to the roofs, as people in surrounding buildings were ordered to stay away from windows and to draw the blinds. Images from the scene were relayed live over international television.

In the end, investigators believe Pardus and Davis were dead the whole time. After sending in a robot with a camera, they discovered the bodies — the bedridden Davis with a gunshot wound to the back of the head, Pardus on the floor, shot through the mouth.

Several Hopkins personnel, some who worked on the eighth floor of the Nelson building, said that Pardus blamed Cohen for paralyzing his mother during surgery. According to one witness who spoke with detectives, he yelled, "You ruined my mother."

"He thought it was [the doctor's] fault, but it wasn't," said a nurse, who did not want to give his name because staff members at the hospital were discouraged from discussing the incident with news media.

"I guess he just couldn't bear to see her the way she was," said Pardus' brother, 59-year-old Alvin Gibson of Remington, Va.

"I guess because he thought my mom was suffering because the surgery wasn't successful and she probably wouldn't be able to walk again," Gibson said. "She was a dear, sweet lady. She just wanted to walk around like she did when she was younger."

He learned of the deaths while watching coverage of the shooting at a friend's house and "was really torn up inside."

Pardus was a single man whose mother had moved into his tiny home in Arlington, Va., about three miles west of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Neighbors said he was a driver for a service for disabled people, but his first obligation was to his mother.

"He was a very kind-hearted man, as far as we could see," said neighbor Teresa Green, 44. "The love he had for his mother showed."

Records show he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Virginia, and he did not appear to have a criminal record beyond traffic violations. In 1998, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and a website lists him as the holder of a copyright for a screenplay and lyrics to a song called "I Love the Lord." Pardus had identified himself to hospital staff as Warren Davis, his middle name and mother's last name.

Vanessa Allen, who lived across the street from Pardus, said she didn't know him well but also saw him often with his mother.

"I always admired him, how he took care of her. That's why I was so shocked when I found out it was him," Allen said. "I can't believe he would shoot his own mother."

Gibson said his brother had never been in trouble and didn't mess around with guns, though when they were young, he liked to hunt and fish.

Thursday's shooting brought activity at some parts of the busy Hopkins hospital to a standstill. By midafternoon, floors of the Nelson building had been evacuated and the police perimeter around the hospital had extended several blocks. Police were shuffling groups of people away — some police officers even pushed patients in wheelchairs away from the scene themselves — and employees were visibly shaken and calling family members as they hurried away from the hospital.

Michelle Burrell, who works at a coffee bar in the hospital lobby, said she sent text message to a friend in a room on the eighth floor of the Nelson building shortly after the shooting. She and others had locked themselves in.

"She just let me know she was safe, and that's all I was worried about," Burrell said. She said the scene in the lobby of the hospital was chaotic, with people running for cover, locking themselves in rooms.

Jacqueline Billy, a nurse who works in respiratory care, was on the seventh floor and got in an elevator that took her up to the eighth. She was greeted by police, guns drawn, who ordered her to shut the door.

"I was petrified — the door opened and there are a bunch of guns. You never expect that," she said.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said that tactical teams, which included the Baltimore city police and SWAT teams, the FBI, and Baltimore County SWAT teams, were called in, and had set up a command center within 45 minutes after the incident.

"By all evaluations, everything worked as designed," Bealefeld said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.