A police officer shot and killed an emergency room patient early today in Olympia, Wash., after the man allegedly pulled out a gun as hospital staff were preparing him for tests on a head injury and he refused to give up the weapon, police said.
Cops had already taken two other weapons from the man, Joseph Leonard Burkett, of Elma, who was brought to the Providence St. Peter Hospital by a family member sometime before 2 a.m., Olympia Police Department Lt. Jim Partin said.
The 43-year-old had a head injury, but Partin said police do not yet know how he got it or how severe it was. He also said it was believed the man's mother brought him to the hospital, but it might have been another family member.
"There's a lot of questions we don't have answers to," Partin said.
At around 2:15 a.m., the man started to become "unruly" and the family member who brought him in said she thought he might have weapons on him, so the hospital staff called police, Partin said.
When police arrived, they searched him and found two loaded handguns, and after they took the weapons from him, the man started to calm down, the lieutenant said.
Police stayed in the emergency room as more tests were done, but whoever brought the man in left.
"At some point, that family member decided to go home," Partin said. "It's late, maybe they wanted to get some sleep."
When two hospital staff members came into the man's room at around 4:15 a.m. to get him ready for another test, the man started to become agitated and unruly again, police said.
One officer was still at the hospital on guard, and went into the room to help the staff.
"As he's stepping in, this person comes out with another handgun," Partin said. "So they're struggling for the gun, and at some point, the officer takes out his gun and fires."
Hospital staff immediately began treating the wounded man for the gunshot wound, but they were unable to save him and he died there in the treatment room.
The officer involved in the shooting is a 13-year veteran of the Olympia Police Department. He has been placed on administrative leave, in accordance with standard procedure, during the investigation of the shooting.
A critical inquiry team including city, county and state law enforcement is investigating the incident, Partin said.
Police said one main focus of the investigation will be to determine how the patient got into the treatment room -- after he had been searched -- with a third firearm still on his person.
Partin said that as far as he knew, police had not had any previous incidents with the man.