'Countless lives saved' chief says of chaotic hospital shooting
Gunfire rang out at Fairview Park Hospital late Sunday less than two weeks after an active-shooter drill with local law-enforcement officers.
One Laurens County sheriff’s deputy, wounded in the leg, is expected to make a full recovery.
Dublin Police Chief Tim Chatman was grateful the training was held 12 days before a former patient came back to the hospital with what is believed to be a 9 mm pistol.
“I believe countless lives were saved because of their quick thinking,” Chatman said Monday.
Just after 9 p.m. Sunday, a hospital employee called 911 after noticing that Akeem Jamal Woodard had a weapon.
Woodard had spent Thursday night at the hospital and was discharged while awaiting a transfer to another facility for evaluation, Chatman said.
Dublin police and Laurens deputies rushed to the hospital and found Woodard outside, near the main entrance.
Four-year sheriff’s veteran Matthew Surine was one of the first deputies to encounter Woodard, who started shooting, Chatman said
Surine, 25, was wounded in the leg. He has worked at the sheriff’s office since May 2012 and started working on patrol in February 2015.
Officers returned fire, and Woodard went back inside, where more shots were fired.
“At that particular time, you can imagine a lot of chaos, but quickly the staff did what they were trained to do,” Chatman said.
By this time, Chatman was at the hospital with the commander of the Georgia State Patrol post.
“We saw a head popping up behind the hedges, and we challenged the individual, and we were able to lock him up,” Chatman said.
Woodard was arrested without incident and charged with aggravated assault, possession of firearms by a felon, criminal damage and obstruction, according to a booking report. Woodard also was booked on an armed robbery charge that was not related to the hospital incident, Chatman said.
No patients or employees were harmed, and counselors and chaplains are available to employees and visitors involved in the incident.
“He ran in one particular room, but no violence occurred in that room,” the chief said. “We’re grateful to the Lord that he minimized. It could have been bad.”
Woodard might have been visiting someone at the hospital, but investigators were trying to determine what motivated the shooting.
Officers conducted several searches of the building to make sure there wasn’t a second gunman.
Investigators reviewed surveillance tapes at the hospital.
“We are certain there was one person,” Chatman said. “We want the public to know everything is safe.”
The hospital reopened about midnight.
The GBI is investigating the officer-involved shooting.
Crime scene technicians roped off the main entrance and set up a tent to shield them from misty rain as they collected evidence. Visitors and patients were asked to use the ER entrance in the meantime.
“Our hospital team trains regularly in order to be ready to quickly respond in moments like these,” Fairview Park Hospital CEO Don Avery said in a news release. “I’m proud of our team, the local law enforcement and the many community partners who responded.”
In the wake of the shooting, Chatman thought about the police shootings that have plagued Middle Georgia this year, including the death of Eastman police officer Tim Smith, the killings of two officers in Americus, the shooting of two Byron police officers last week, and the deaths of two Peach County deputies last month.
“All over America, you can see violence is growing every day,” Chatman said.