The Associated Press reported that on Thursday, Richard Plotts, 49, kept an appointment with his psychiatrist, Dr. Lee Silverman, at a psychiatric crisis center across from Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, PA. Plotts was accompanied by Theresa Hunt, 53, of Philadelphia who was a case worker for Dr. Silverman. Accounts from police revealed that once Plotts and Hunt arrived at Silverman’s office, he allegedly shot and killed Hunt after an argument with Silverman ensued. Plotts then turned the gun towards Silverman which prompted him to draw his firearm and defend himself. Pro-gun rights supporters view Silverman’s use of a legally possessed handgun to engage the shooting suspect in self-defense and in the defense of other hospital employees and patients, as a blow to arguments made by gun control advocates.
Reports suggest that the motivation for the shooting was Plotts’ anger over hospital signs declaring it a gun-free zone. Police say that after Plotts twice shot Hunt in the head at point-blank range, Silverman dropped to the floor and took a handgun which he had in his pocket, and engaged Plotts in a close-quarters exchange of gunfire. Plotts was struck twice in the upper body and once in the leg by shots fired by Silverman before the doctor’s .32 caliber handgun was empty. During the gun battle, Silverman was grazed in the head and thumb by two of Plotts’ bullets.
According to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, another case worker, John D’Alonzo, heard shots being fired from Sliverman’s office and called 911. He then made his way into the office where he believed the wounded gunman was attempting to reload his weapon. D’Alonzo succeeded in wrestling Plotts revolver away from him. Investigation at the scene disclosed that Plotts had another 39 rounds of ammunition in his possession. Whelan’s belief is that Plotts intended to use them. Whelan also stated that Silverman’s action against the armed assailant likely saved his life and the lives of others at the hospital in spite of regulations that prohibit firearms on the premises.
Parties on both sides of the anti-gun debate are weighing in on the Darby PA hospital shooting with Second Amendment supporters calling it a blow to gun control advocates. While on the other side, those who call for strict gun control claim the Darby scenario is extremely rare and insufficient to offset any pro-gun control argument. Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital has yet to make any statements regarding Silverman’s violation of the hospital’s no-guns policy. Donald Molineaux, Yeadon Police Chief, said that Silverman was acting in self-defense and further characterized the doctor as a hero. FOX News reported that any criminal charges against Silverman were unlikely and it is yet unclear if Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital plans to take any administrative action against the doctor for violating their strict policy.
Further complicating the issue of gun control versus gun rights is the occurrence of recidivism in violent offenders who are released from incarceration to commit more violent crime. It is reported that Plotts has a criminal record and is a convicted violent felon. There are also reports of media bias in the amount of coverage pro-gun control stories receive as opposed to the amount of coverage pro-gun stories get. One such report noted that the major networks covering the shooting at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital could not air the story for more than 43 seconds. Conversely, pro-gun control stories typically receive up to eight times more coverage. Pro-gun rights supporters say that the shooting at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby represents a perfect scenario for supporters of the Second Amendment and issues a blow to those who advocate stricter gun control laws.
By Mark Politi