Visitors describe 'frantic' moments inside hospital after shooting

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email
University Hospital

(WRDW-TV / Oct. 16, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Richmond County deputies say the gunman in a deadly hospital shooting surrendered just moments after shooting his nephew, 59-year-old Tim Grooms of Lincolnton.

Now, 85-year-old Charles Gorrell of Aiken is behind bars.

That shooting happened on the seventh floor of University Hospital on Tuesday afternoon. Some now worry it could have been them.

Shardae Walker was visiting a patient on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting.

"It was frantic. We were in the sixth floor ICU waiting room and we heard running," she said.

Joe Spires was also visiting a patient on the sixth floor.

"Basically, I was watching TV with my mother and the nursing staff came in and then the nurse said, 'We're going to shut the door,' and that was it," he said.

Spires continued, "It wasn't until about 10 to 15 more minutes, breaking news from Channel 12 came on to say there had been a shooting."

"We didn't know who was shooting. We just know somebody was shooting and that we couldn't go anywhere," Walker said.

Imagine the terror, these families visiting loved ones when shots are fired just a floor above them.

"Wow, if it's here, it's anywhere," Spires said.

Just like Spires and Walker, two relatives were also visiting in a room on the seventh floor.

"One relative of the patient shot another relative over some disagreement that had been brewing between the two," said Rebecca Sylvester, University Hospital spokeswoman.

Patients fearing their health are now concerned about how safe they were.

"We don't have any reason to believe anyone else was ever in danger," Sylvester said.

But in a hospital with no metal detectors, it raises important questions.

"We don't pat people down, there is not a security system to get in," Sylvester said.

Spires says he was told very little -- just to be still.

"If you go around and you tell people there's been a shooting, there is going to be mass chaos, so I think that's how they are instructed to handle it."

"And we got a phone call in the waiting room and we were told we had to stay inside the waiting room," Walker said.

Waiting, too, for answers, as chaos spiraled and a crime scene ensued.

Hospital officials say there is counseling available to help patients or families if they need it.

They also say they will reassess their security measures to see if there is anything that they could've done differently or if there is anything they should do differently in the future.

Meanwhile, Gorrell is being charged with murder and a weapons charge.

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