MEDIA Pa. (Reuters) - The accused gunman in a fatal shooting at a Philadelphia-area hospital opened fire after arguing about signs prohibiting guns at his psychiatrist’s office and had a cache of 39 more bullets when he was tackled by two men, a prosecutor said on Friday.
District Attorney Jack Whelan told a news conference he was preparing first-degree murder charges against Richard Plotts, 49, for Thursday’s shooting, which killed his social worker and wounded his psychiatrist at the Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center in Darby, Pennsylvania.
It was during a scheduled appointment at psychiatrist Lee Silverman’s office that Plotts pulled a .32-caliber revolver from his waistband after an argument and fired two shots, killing social worker Theresa Hunt at point-blank range, Whelan said.
Silverman, who suffered a graze wound to the head, pulled out a .32-caliber semi-automatic gun and shot six or seven bullets, hitting Plotts three times and critically wounding him, Whelan said. Silverman had a license to carry a concealed firearm.
Plotts, who has a long criminal history involving firearms, had 39 bullets in his pocket and was trying to reload when a social worker, John D‘Alonzo, and a doctor, Jeffrey Dekret, wrestled him to the ground, Whelan said.
“There’s only one intent, when you have bullets in your pocket and a revolver, and that’s to reload,” Whelan said.
It is unclear, Whelan said, if the argument began over the hospital’s gun policy, or if it turned in that direction at some point in the dispute. But he said Plotts had brought up the issue of signs banning guns at appointments with Silverman.
The shooting has re-ignited a debate over gun rights in the United States, in part because the hospital’s policy permitted only on-duty law enforcement officers to carry guns on campus.
A hospital spokeswoman declined to say whether Silverman had received special permission to carry a gun on its grounds.
Philadelphia police in 1990 stopped Plotts for carrying an unlicensed firearm. He later served time for federal bank robbery and after his release from prison, violated his parole when he was caught with a gun. He was sentenced in 2003 to up to 23 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a gun.
Reporting by Daniel Kelley; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Beech