Cops in clinic shooting had trained for campus gunman
Campus police who had trained for a Virginia Tech-style shooting successfully took down shooter at clinic
By Joe Mandak and Kevin Begos
PITTSBURGH — A gunman who shot to death a worker and wounded six others at a psychiatric hospital at the University of Pittsburgh this week was himself killed by campus police who had trained for a Virginia Tech-style mass campus shooting, authorities said.
John Shick began shooting almost immediately upon entering the lobby of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic on Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh major crimes Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said at a news conference Friday. Then, Shick went up a stairwell to a second-floor parking area, where he apparently tried to leave but couldn't open a secured door. A window on the door was shot but didn't shatter, suggesting Shick tried to shoot his way through.
Shick came back down the stairs and into the lobby, perhaps planning to escape through the front door. That's where he encountered university police officers, firing at them through the door as they arrived.
Six Pitt officers had responded to the clinic within two minutes of the first emergency call, Pitt campus police Chief Tim Delaney said. They were trained to split into two groups of three to outflank the gunman and draw his attention.
"We practice this," Delaney said. "A lot of these (law enforcement techniques) came out of Virginia Tech. They engaged in gunfire as soon as they entered the front door."
The first three officers returned fire and killed Shick. So many shots were fired in the brief gunbattle that smoke hung in the lobby afterward, Delaney said.
No witnesses have reported that Shick, 30, said or did anything to explain his motives, and police said they found nothing on him to indicate a reason.
The 292-bed psychiatric clinic is in the city's Oakland neighborhood, which includes several hospitals and two other universities. That's why, Delaney said, his officers had trained for a shooting like the one at Virginia Tech, where 33 people, including the gunman, were killed on April 16, 2007, and knew at once they had to stop the shooter at any cost.
Clinic geriatric therapist Michael Schaab was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the shooting, the medical examiner's office said. The wounded are expected to recover.
Officials at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is affiliated with the clinic, said they had treated five adults for gunshot wounds. Kathryn Leight, a 64-year-old front lobby receptionist identified by her family as a victim, and a man were listed in serious condition. Two others were still hospitalized, and one had been discharged.
Shick lived in the city's trendy Shadyside neighborhood, blocks from the clinic. Police hadn't determined if he had a history of criminal or mental health problems, but an online database of state criminal court records revealed no arrests or convictions in Pennsylvania. A nationwide search of records turned up only a speeding ticket in Oregon in April.
Online records suggest Shick once lived near the Carleton College campus in Northfield, Minnesota, and the college's website shows that a John Shick was a chemistry major and graduated in 2004. The records also suggest Shick moved to Pittsburgh in August.
Calls to homes listed in the names of Shick's parents in Green Cove Springs, Florida, and San Jose, California, went unanswered Friday.
Stangrecki declined to say how police identified Shick, who was carrying no identification. He said only that Shick's name was confirmed through an unspecified database from a name written on something he was carrying or wearing.
Police said Shick used two semiautomatic pistols, one of them stolen, as he marched around checking offices possibly in an attempt to find more victims. They traced Shick's guns to Texas and said one had been stolen. He also had a fanny pack containing plastic bags with medicines police haven't disclosed and carried a box of ammunition
Schaab, of suburban Edgewood, had worked at the clinic since graduating from Pitt with a psychology degree and was going back to school to get his master's degree in occupational therapy. He had one sibling, a 26-year-old sister, who was shot to death during a domestic dispute in 2010; her live-in boyfriend is in prison for voluntary manslaughter.
Schaabhad recently gotten engaged, his mother said.
"We were just planning his wedding," Mary Schaab of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, said, sobbing. "March 2013."
Schaab said she had not been especially worried as she watched the television news coverage that day about a gunman who killed one person and shot several others at the Pittsburgh psychiatric hospital where her son worked.
"We sat and watched the news for hours and not even thinking (he might be a victim) because he worked on another floor, an upper floor," Mary Schaab said, referring to news accounts of the shooting on the first floor lobby of the clinic.
Police now believe Michael Schaab was returning from a lunch break and just happened to be in the lobby when Shick opened fire.
"A trooper came by and told us, about 10 or 11 last night," the Greensburg mother said Friday.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press