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Security Officer Killed in Shooting at New Hampshire Hospital

A security officer was shot and killed on the afternoon of 17 November at a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital after a man opened fire in the lobby. The suspect—identified by authorities as a transient individual who spent time living in the area around the hospital—got past the facility’s metal detectors and allegedly used a 9 mm handgun to shoot security officer Bradley Haas, 63, who was a former Franklin Police Department chief of police and a U.S. Army veteran.  

After Haas was shot, a state trooper who was assigned to the New Hampshire Hospital campus shot and killed the gunman, New Hampshire State Police said. The trooper has yet to be formally identified.

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella lauded the trooper’s actions at a press conference on 18 November, saying, “All indications are that the actions of this trooper saved a lot of lives and that this trooper’s actions were heroic.” No patients, visitors, or other staff were injured during the incident.

Formella also praised the security officer who was killed: “Chief Haas was already a hero when he walked into work yesterday given his service to our country, to our state, and to his community. But he will now be remembered forever as a man who died protecting patients, staff, and visitors at New Hampshire Hospital. So, we cannot say enough how grateful we are to him for his service and words cannot express the condolences that we would like to send to his family, friends, and loved ones.”

The investigation is ongoing, and in the meantime, the hospital is open to patients but closed to visitors, ABC News reported. Police also responded to a U-Haul truck running in the hospital parking lot that “initially appeared suspicious,” said New Hampshire State Police Col. Mark Hall. While investigators determined the vehicle was not an active threat to the public, they did find several concerning items inside the truck, including an AR-style rifle, a tactical vest, and several magazines of ammunition. It is unclear at this time if the materials in the truck are related to the shooter.

Susan Stearns, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in New Hampshire, cautioned against conflating acts of violence with mental illness—especially in this case, which involved a psychiatric facility. “The vast majority of people with mental illness—meaning one-fifth of individuals—are not violent and do not commit such acts,” she told New Hampshire Public Radio.

Violence in healthcare institutions is unfortunately common in the United States. Healthcare staff are estimated to have a 20 percent higher chance of being a victim of workplace violence than the average worker, and a 2021 study found that 12 percent of surveyed emergency room nurses have been victims of physical assault, Security Management reported.

Plus, as of 2022, only 60 percent of U.S. hospitals have implemented workplace violence prevention initiatives, according to an American Hospital Association survey.

U.S. medical centers have struggled to come to grips with growing threats of violence, and a number of recent shootings have made healthcare one of the nation’s most violent fields, the Associated Press reported in August. High costs, long wait times, and limited treatment options have exacerbated already stressful conditions in many hospitals, which can cause patients and visitors to lash out against nurses and other staff members. Staffing shortages mean that nursing staff cannot spend time to build a rapport with visitors or patients—a necessary element for effective de-escalation—and a two-person “buddy system” model for handling higher-risk patients is less viable.

Unfortunately, the nursing shortage is only likely to get worse in the face of assault risks, exacerbating the problem further. According to research from patient satisfaction firm Press Ganey, more than two U.S. nursing personnel were assaulted every hour during the second quarter of 2022. Given nurses’ propensity to underreport incidents of violence or abuse and some healthcare institutions’ unclear reporting guidelines on what constitutes abuse, that is likely a dramatic undercount of assaults in healthcare institutions.  

This level of violence is driving turnover and burnout among nursing staff, especially in emergency departments. According to NurseJournal, nurses exposed to workplace violence are two to four times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or burnout than nurses with no exposure.