07/24/05 — Patient grabs gun, shoots worker, self

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Patient grabs gun, shoots worker, self

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 24, 2005 2:00 AM

A health care worker at Cherry Hospital is in stable condition after being shot by a man being admitted to the hospital Friday afternoon.

The 27-year-old patient then turned the gun on himself and died at the scene.

According to a Goldsboro police report, the incident occurred at about 4:15 p.m. Friday while Arturo Pizano, 47, an officer with Onslow County Sheriff's Office, was performing an involuntary commitment at Cherry Hospital.

The patient, Clifton Gentry, had been in handcuffs, but the handcuffs were removed during processing at the U-2 building of the hospital. A struggle occurred and Gentry reportedly took the officer's gun and fired several shots.

One bullet struck and wounded William Shelton Denning, 44, a health care technician at Cherry since December 1999. Gentry then shot and killed himself.

Denning underwent surgery at Wayne Memorial Hospital early Friday evening. His condition was listed as stable on Saturday afternoon, according to a nursing supervisor at the hospital.

Immediately after the shooting, Cherry Hospital officials put the facility on lockdown as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of patients and staff, said Dr. Jim Osberg, hospital director.

Goldsboro police and the State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the case.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the hospital, will also conduct a thorough investigation into the shooting to see if any policies or procedures need to be changed to prevent future incidents.

Dr. Allen Dobson, DHHS secretary for health policy, said his office deeply regretted the situation.

"Patient and employee safety is paramount, and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to prevent harm to employees or patients," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with our employee and his family and with the patient's family."

Osberg could provide no timetable for the hospital's internal investigation.

"We will be thorough and make sure that we cover all of the bases," he said. "In the meantime, we are counseling our employees and patients who may have been affected by this event."

He said his staff would be working throughout the weekend to ensure the well-being of employees and patients.