Fighting to remain composed, Central Peninsula Hospital CEO Ryan Smith choked back tears as he spoke to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, praising his staff and police officers for their bravery in the tragic shooting incident at the hospital Nov. 26 that left two dead and another fighting for her life.
Smith promised a full and transparent internal investigation into what led Joseph Marchetti, 48, who had been dismissed from his job as a communications systems administrator the day before, to return armed to the hospital the next day, where he shot and killed Information Services Director Mike Webb, 55, and severely wounded Imaging Director Margaret Stroup, 57. Apparently seeking other victims, Marchetti fired bullets through walls into locked rooms where other staffers were taking cover.
Marchetti was later shot dead in the hospital parking lot after a standoff with Alaska State Troopers and Soldotna Police.
Stroup is recovering at Providence Hospital in Anchorage.
"I come to the assembly with a heavy heart," Smith said, "mourning the loss of my friend and coworker, Mike Webb, and also Joseph Marchetti, and continuing our thoughts and prayers for Margaret Stroup, who is surrounded by her loving family ... in the adult critical care unit at Providence."
Smith said he would be forever grateful to hospital employees who provided "an immediate and unbelievable response" that day, and to hospital environmental services and support staff who dedicated their Thanksgiving Day to repairing the damage and restoring the building after the crime scene was cleared by police early Thursday morning.
"They did an unbelievable job," he said.
He praised the hospital medical staff for their rapid response and efforts to save Webb, Stroup, and Marchetti. Then he talked about the police and troopers.
"Until you have laid under a desk with an intruder pounding on the door and shooting through the walls can you appreciate the extraordinary and immediate response from Chief (John) Lucking and the Soldotna Police and from Sgt. Eugene Fowler and the Alaska State Troopers," Smith said.
He thanked mental health professionals and volunteer chaplains and others for their help, and also Mayor Dave Carey "for being with us Wednesday and throughout the weekend." He thanked the community as a whole for its support.
Smith said the hospital was taking a proactive approach to reach out to its 600 employees, offering whatever help was necessary to begin the healing process, recognizing, he said, that each person would heal from the emotional trauma at his or her own rate.
He also said an extensive internal investigation into the incident and what led to it was under way.
"We are committed to finding truth," he said. "We may not be able to answer every question, but we hope to provide a better level of clarity for this event and we will learn from this."
He said the hospital was "100 percent committed to transparency" about the events of that day, and said he would do his best to keep employees, the assembly and the community informed.
"We will keep an open dialogue with members of the press," Smith said. "They have been a great tool in keeping our community informed, and we promise to work with them, and not against them."
He asked the community for continued support and prayers for Margaret Stroup.
"She is recovering," he said.
Assembly President Milli Martin, of Diamond Ridge, told Smith, "All of you are in our thoughts and prayers, and have been."
On Wednesday, the hospital announced funeral services for Webb are scheduled for today in Redmond, Ore. A group of hospital employees will attend the services in person, while others will participate via teleconference beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Denali Room of the hospital's Mountain Tower. Following the teleconference, the hospital will hold a memorial sevice for Webb at 4 p.m. in the Denali Room.
Hal Spence can be reached at email@example.com.
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