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Doctor: Patient killed caseworker before gunfight

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 24, 2014 at 10:53 pm •  Published: July 24, 2014
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DARBY, Pa. (AP) — A doctor told police that a patient fatally shot a caseworker at their hospital complex before the doctor pulled out his own gun and exchanged fire with him and wounded him, a prosecutor said Thursday night.

Dr. Lee Silverman, a psychiatrist, was grazed in the temple during the gunfight in his office with patient Richard Plotts, according to Delaware District Attorney Jack Whelan.

Whelan identified the caseworker killed Thursday afternoon at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital as Theresa Hunt, 53. Hunt, who was from Philadelphia, had accompanied Plotts to an appointment with Silverman at a psychiatric crisis center next to the hospital in Darby, just southwest of Philadelphia, authorities said.

"When the caseworker was shot, (Silverman) crouched down behind the desk to avoid him being shot," Whelan said. "He was able to reach for his weapon, and realizing it was a life or death situation, was able to engage the defendant in the exchange of gunfire."

A struggle ensued and spilled out into the hallway, Whelan said. Another doctor and a caseworker jumped in to help Silverman and secure Plotts' weapon, he said.

The motive for the shooting remained unclear late Thursday, although Whelan said Plotts, of Upper Darby, might have had issues with the doctor over his treatment plan. However, it's unclear if that's why Silverman was armed, apparently against hospital policy.

"We do believe that there were some issues between the doctor and the patient, but whether or not he actually feared him is unclear," the prosecutor said. "From all accounts, (he) would have acted in self-defense."

Whelan said that Plotts, 49, was still in surgery Thursday evening at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, while Silverman had been treated and released. Telephone calls to the doctor's home went unanswered.

Plotts doesn't have a listed home phone number. Court records in Delaware County show a man of the same name and age with a lengthy criminal record, but Whelan was uncertain if they were the same person.

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