IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Cops: Tenn. hospital shooter kills 1, wounds 2

A gunman opened fire outside a hospital Monday, killing a woman and injuring two others before committing suicide, police said.
A body lies on the ground after a shooting at the patient discharge exit of Parkwest Medical Center Monday in Knoxville, Tenn.
A body lies on the ground after a shooting at the patient discharge exit of Parkwest Medical Center Monday in Knoxville, Tenn. Michael Patrick / ASSOCIATED PRESS
/ Source: The Associated Press

A gunman took a taxi to a hospital and gave the cab driver $20 to wait, then opened fire Monday in an area where patients are released, killing one woman before committing suicide.

Two other women were injured in the shooting, and all the women were current or former employees of Parkwest Medical Center, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said. The attack happened about 4:30 p.m. outside the hospital's discharge area.

Police are still trying to determine a motive, but it did not appear that any of the victims were related to the suspect or that there was any connection between them, spokesman Darrell DeBusk said. Police also don't think the suspect was ever employed at the hospital.

Cab driver Freddys Sakhleh told The Associated Press that he picked up the suspect outside an apartment building and they made several stops on the way to the hospital, including to an ATM where the gunman got $20. The man said little about himself, only that he was from Atlanta.

"He looked like, you know, angry, depressed. He was kind of itchy," Sakleh said.

I went berserk’
Sakhleh said the man eventually got out of the cab at the hospital, handed the driver the $20 and told him to wait five minutes. He came back to the cab, pulled a gun from his waist and starting firing.

"I called 911, and I said, 'Please send some people here, this man is shooting like crazy,'" Sakhleh said. He said the gunman then shot himself in the head.

Sakhleh saw a woman bleeding. "I went berserk," he said.

Photographs of the discharge area, where vehicles can pick up patients, showed a man's body surrounded by police. Yellow crime tape was stretched around the area and police took photographs inside of the van taxi.

The two women who survived the shooting were taken to the trauma center at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Their conditions were not released, but the women's families released statements expressing thanks for prayers and support.

The family of Ariane Reagan Guerin, 26-year-old employee at Parkwest, said they were hearing promising information about her prognosis. The family of Nancy Chancellor, 32, said she was doing well.

The women killed was Rachel Wattenbarger, 40. Her father, Ray Wattenbarger, said she worked at the hospital for about five or six years, helping discharge the elderly. He said he would remember his daughter's smile.

The gunman's name has not been released.

‘It was scary’
Linda Cody, whose father was a patient at the hospital, said she had gone to smoke a cigarette when she saw a man's body face down, surrounded by blood, outside the discharge area. She quickly learned the victims had been shot in the same area where she normally smoked.

"It was scary," she said. "It kind of gives you the willies thinking that could have been me five seconds ago."

Cody overheard a woman tell police that a gun was underneath the man.

Police put the hospital on lockdown as SWAT team members searched each floor to make sure no one else involved with the attack had made it inside.

"The hospital is safe and is being reopened with limitations," Owen said.

Charles Billingsley was taking his sister to a nearby doctor's office and heard the shooting, though he wasn't close enough to see the attack.

"I heard five pistol shots, back to back, and then another and then another," Billingsley said. "I just saw people running from the hospital."

Sakhleh, the cab driver, said he was lucky to be alive.

"My wife always tells me, 'Be careful, be careful.' But after tonight, I'm going to be real careful."