Seven Injured, Two Dead in Western Psych Shooting

Mark Nootbaar March 8, 2012

Gunfire Thursday at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic on the University of Pittsburgh campus killed two people and injured seven others.  Among the dead was the shooter.

One of the injured is believed to be a University of Pittsburgh police officer.  It is still unclear if the other wounded were patients, employees or visitors.  The injured were treated at UPMC Presbyterian, which is across the street from Western Psych. 

At one time police thought there could be another gunman on the loose but that later proved to be untrue. A SWAT team was called to the scene, and several university buildings were placed on lockdown along with buildings on the Carlow University Campus, a Pittsburgh Public Schools building and a few other institutions in the area. 

Officials at Western Psych said measures were put in place to secure the hospital and “keep patients/staff safe.”

Streets in the area were also blocked off for a few hours, rerouting buses and snarling early rush-hour traffic. 

Pitt sent out email and text alerts shortly after 2 p.m. to warn people of the shooting.

"An active shooter has been identified at Western Psychiatric Institute. Several injured. Possible second actor in Western Psych. Lockdown recommended until further notice. If safe to do so, tell others of this message," the alert said.

Pete Finelli, who lives two blocks from the clinic and once worked there as a student nursing assistant, told the Associated Press that security guards are always at the part of the building where it the shooting is believed to have occurred.

Patient rooms are on the upper floors, he said, but anyone on the first floor would have to be someone being either admitted or discharged. "The only place a person would be on the first floor is the emergency room," he said.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh sent buses to the scene to transport individuals out of the area.  A group of children was taken out of Western Psych and into the Peterson Event Center.  Several Western Psych employees were evacuated to nearby builds and told to stay in place. 

Patient Kevin Bonner, who told the PA he was staying on the building's ninth floor, several floors above the shooting scene, said there was a normal atmosphere there, with patients in the common room listening to music, watching TV, drinking and eating snacks. Bonner said no one at the hospital had told them what was going on.

He said he had been napping and awoke to hear an announcement on the intercom: "Bronze Alert on the first floor."

"I didn't think I was hearing my ears right until I looked out the window" and saw police cars and a sniper, he said.

After the situation was brought under control Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police cleared Western Psych floor-by-floor.

Pitt and Carlow are on spring break.

Joe Mandak, Kevin Begos, Mike Rubinkam, Kathy Matheson, and JoAnn Loviglio contributed to this report.