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Health

Staff, visitors remain confident in Hopkins security after shooting

Cobin Burrell, a 31-year-old Johns Hopkins Hospital worker, had the task of cleaning blood from Room 873, where a man killed his ailing mother, then himself after shooting a doctor.

The assignment didn't bother him. "I've seen it on the street a lot of times," the Baltimore resident said.

Burrell and thousands of Hopkins doctors, nurses, technicians and patients resumed their routines Friday, a day after Paul Warren Pardus of Arlington, Va., triggered a standoff after he became distraught over the care given to his 84-year-old mother, pulled out a gun and began shooting. The doctor, orthopedic surgeon David B. Cohen, was in fair condition after surgery.

Staffers and visitors expressed confidence in the way police and security handled the incident, even if some questioned how a man with a weapon got on a patient floor so easily.

"I think security did a good job," said Andrew Roquiz, a visiting fourth-year medical student from Loma Linda University in California. "The Baltimore police contained the situation. There wasn't any panic."

The eighth floor of Hopkins' Nelson Building reopened late Friday afternoon, and the facility where transplant patients receive treatment and therapy seemed back to normal. Visitors could easily enter hallways that a day earlier had been filled with heavily armed tactical officers.

The room where Jean Davis had been recovering from surgery when she was shot by her son was empty. Other patients who had been moved off the floor during Thursday's incident appeared to be back in their rooms.

The Hopkins campus is a virtual city within a city — an estimated 80,000 workers and visitors pass through each week — and is guarded by teams of private security guards and uniformed city police officers.

"Hospitals are and must remain places of hope and healing that are open to the public," Hopkins officials said in a statement Friday. "They cannot be turned into armed citadels. Johns Hopkins never closes. Our doctors, nurses and staff took care of our very sick patients even during the crisis."

Roquiz, 27, was doing rounds on the sixth floor of an adjacent building when the shootings occurred. He said he and an attending physician went to a workroom where they stayed until given the all-clear.

Roquiz, who started at Hopkins on Monday, said he had been warned about safety in Baltimore — the hospital campus is in one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods — but was not prepared for what happened Thursday.

"It's odd how, in a hospital where we're trying to save a life, someone comes in and tries to take a life," he said.

Michael Clark, 51, was waiting Friday for a ride in front of the Nelson Building. He was wearing a bright-blue Nike shirt with the breast cancer ribbon symbol, his medical bracelet and a yellow Livestrong band. He comes to Hopkins each month from his home in Prince George's County for treatment for diabetes and failing kidneys, and is on a waiting list for a transplant.

He saw news coverage of the shooting, but it didn't stop him from coming to Baltimore. "I wasn't concerned," he said. "I feel pretty relaxed, confident."

Michelle Hunter, 23, of Churchville arrived at the hospital Thursday night after a 90-minute ride in an ambulance with her 2-year-old daughter, Zoe Aguilar-Rodriguez, who suffered a concussion after a fall. Hunter said she wasn't worried about the violence.

"They had it contained," she said, making "everyone in the hospital feel safe."

But Jeffery Herriott, whose 15-year-old sister was a patient on the third floor of the Nelson Building when the shooting occurred, was a bit more concerned. The 18-year-old, visiting with his mother, noted that anyone could walk into the building.

Hopkins officials use magnetometer "wands" to check visitors during high-risk situations, but only in the emergency room on East Monument Street, where gunshot victims are routinely treated and rival gang members can show up as patients or visitors.

Still, officials "will continue as always to assess and reassess our security needs," the hospital statement said.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, speaking Friday about the standoff and offering further details about the response, said it is nearly impossible to guard against such an event.

He noted that the .38-caliber Kel-Tec handgun Pardus used was so small that it could be "concealed in the palm of your hand," and that detecting such a weapon without intrusive searches of every visitor would have been nearly impossible.

"The frustrations we have in protecting Baltimore, not just at Hopkins but across the city, is that police officers aren't equipped with X-ray vision," Bealefeld said. "It speaks to the vigilance of all of us. I would like to think there is some communication between a family member that we missed. Was there some communication between staff?

"This is America, and I would not be in favor of sacrificing people's civil liberties to the extent that it would require us to ensure that no one has a penknife in their pockets," the commissioner said.

Bealefeld, asked whether people should be scared about going to Hopkins, offered some insight into his closely guarded personal life.

"My mother suffered a stroke over a year ago," he said, "and she's received care in a number of area hospitals. She gets treatment two days a week, and this morning she's at Hopkins getting her physical therapy, and I have zero concerns about her safety."

Jessica and Kevin Goldsmith said security at Hopkins was more restrictive than at the hospital in Fredericksburg, Va., where their 4-year-old daughter had been treated for the past two weeks. They had arrived at Hopkins early Friday.

Both parents wore gray wristbands to permit them to enter the hospital and white ones for the ward where their daughter was staying. Within hours, they already had had to change the bracelets.

The level of security "annoyed me" said Jessica Goldsmith, but she acknowledged that it could prevent an intruder from reaching her daughter.

The Goldsmiths arrived at 2:30 a.m. and were escorted from a garage on Caroline Street to the pediatric center.

"There wasn't a time when you didn't see an officer on the street," Kevin Goldsmith said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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