Three people were held hostage by an armed gunman early Monday morning at Fort Stewart's Winn Army Community Hospital. The standoff ended peaceably and the hospital re-opened after being locked down for a time. "No shots were fired and there were no injuries," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, acting division commander-rear, at a press conference Monday.
The incident began at 4 a.m. when a former soldier walked into the emergency room of Winn Army Community Hospital and demanded mental health care, Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said.
Phillips said the man was carrying four loaded firearms, entered the rear of the hospital where the emergency room is located, grabbed a medic and forced her to take him to the third floor, where behavioral health care is provided. There he held two more health professionals at gunpoint.
Phillips said the gunman was carrying a .38 revolver, a 9 mm semiautomatic, an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a ".22 version of a MP-5" along with ammunition.
One of the hostages, a psychiatric nurse trained in de-escalation tactics, convinced the gunman to lay down his weapons and release the hostages, the general said. Winn Commander Col. Paul Cordts said the psychiatric nurse, a Maj. Shelton, just happened to be the senior nurse on call that night. Cordts said the major has only been stationed at Winn for the past four months.
Larson said Shelton apparently saw the gunman from behind locked doors and allowed himself to be taken hostage, to try to diffuse the situation. The doors to the hospital's behavioral health care wing are kept locked, he said.
The third hostage, Phillips said, was a behavioral health technician "who just happened to walk onto the scene."
The general said within minutes of the hostage takeover, Fort Stewart police arrived on scene. Soon after Criminal Investigation Division negotiators arrived, he said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved in the case because the gunman is a civilian, Phillips explained.
The hostage taker is currently being held on Fort Stewart for questioning. Phillips said he could not release the gunman's name or his last duty station.
The general credits the "calm and organized" response of the installation's police, hospital staff and CID to the training they receive. Fort Stewart held an installation-wide active shooter scenario exercise just last month.
"It was intense," said 1st Lt. Dorothea Mobley, one of the first police officers to arrive on scene. Mobley said officers exhibited the utmost professionalism during the incident.
Max Brown, Fort Stewart's law enforcement division chief, said installation police train on a regular basis, three to four times a month.
"This is not something new to us," Brown said.
Phillips said once the hospital was secured, he personally visited some of the patients on the labor and delivery ward who were in the hospital at the time of the hostage incident.
"One brand new mother was glowing with praise with the care she received throughout this whole process," the general said.
Because safety is Fort Stewart's primary concern, additional security measures- such as metal detectors - may be considered for the hospital, Phillips said.