Laurinburg, N.C. — Laurinburg police said that a bar fight motivated a gunman to critically wound a patient and try to kill the patient's girlfriend at Scotland Memorial Hospital before he could be subdued by officers early Monday.
Police Capt. Kimothy Monroe said the shooting stemmed from an altercation around 2 a.m. at Ellison Club, on U.S. Highway 401 in McColl, S.C., about 8 miles from Laurinburg. He said that several people were involved in the altercation, including Jessica Gillespie, her boyfriend Domario Covington, 31, and another woman.
Covington suffered a laceration on his neck during the fight, and he and Gillespie went to Scotland Memorial Hospital.
Wayne "Wolf" Simmons, the 49-year-old father of the woman Gillespie had fought, came to the hospital around 3 a.m.
"It appears like the shooter identified himself as a relative of the patient, so we normally let him back," said Greg Wood, CEO of the Scotland Health Care System.
Simmons opened fired in a trauma room, shooting Covington several times in the upper body as he fought for his life, Monroe said.
“It was several times, more than two or three,” she said, referring to the number of gunshots.
Covington fled from the room, through the ER and out the hospital, shouting that he had been shot.
Simmons next pointed the gun at Gillespie and pulled the trigger, but the gun malfunctioned and didn't fire, Monroe said. Simmons then ran into the ER and brandishing the gun, sending people ducking under tables and chairs, police said. He threw the gun away and ran into the hospital parking lot, where police officers subdued him.
"He was already out. He was already fleeing on foot," Monroe said. "We really applaud the officers in this investigation."
Wood credited an ER nurse with acting heroically. While the shooter was still loose, the nurse rushed outside to help Covington, he said. The nurse's identity wasn't released.
“I think it speaks to the extraordinary staff we have in the emergency center and throughout the hospital," Wood said.
The nurse calmed Covington down and called for someone to bring a stretcher to take him back inside the hospital.
Covington is in critical but stable condition, hospital officials said.
Simmons, who has a heart condition, started complaining of chest pains, police said. He was treated at Scotland Memorial and then transferred to a hospital in Charlotte for safety reasons.
Monroe said that once released, Simmons will be charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and discharging a firearm into a medical facility. Police said they recovered a small-caliber handgun from a trash can at the hospital.
Simmons was convicted of manslaughter more than a decade ago for the death of his cousin, according to court documents. In 2005, he was arrested for assault and battery with intent to kill.
Several other people have been detained for questioning, and police expect to make more arrests, Monroe said.
Wood said the shooting is a sad incident for this small town of about 16,000 and that nothing like it has happened in the 20 years he's been there.
Officers remained at the hospital late Monday morning, and a lockdown imposed after the shooting has been lifted.
"I want to stress that all (other) patients and staff are safe and were not injured in this incident," Wood said, adding that counseling is being provided to hospital staff.
Administrators will review hospital security, he said.
"We have extensive security measures ... to prevent incidents like this from extending through the hospital," he said. "Since the incident, we have maintained constant patrols and will continue to evaluate the safety situation."
A security force is on the campus around the clock, he said, but Scotland Memorial doesn't have security measures used at hospitals in larger cities, such as having a constant law enforcement presence and screening all visitors with metal detectors.
The 104-bed hospital has an average of about 75 patients at a time, and the ER sees approximately 100 patients daily, he said.