Police investigating why man opened fire outside Tenn. hospital, killing woman, himself

Police on Tuesday were investigating why a man opened fire outside a Knoxville hospital, killing a woman and himself, after he had taken a taxi there and given the cab driver $20 to wait five minutes.

Two other women were injured in the rampage outside the discharge area at Parkwest Medical Center, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said.

Cab driver Freddys Sakhleh told The Associated Press he picked up the gunman Monday 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.

The man eventually got out of the cab at the hospital, handed the driver the $20 and told him to wait. He came back to the cab, pulled a gun from his waist and started firing, Sakleh said.

“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.

Police are still trying to determine a motive, but it did not appear any of the women were related to the gunman or that there was any connection between them. The women were either former or current hospital workers, spokesman Darrell DeBusk said. Police don’t think the suspect ever worked at the hospital.

Photographs of the discharge area, where vehicles can pick up patients, showed a man’s body lying face down, 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. The women’s families issued statements expressing thanks for prayers and support.

The family of Ariane Reagan Guerin, a 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 had 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.

Linda Cody, whose father was a patient at the hospital, camel cigarettes when she saw the gunman’s body, surrounded by blood. 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.”

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.”

source: Associated Press writer Sheila Burke in Nashville

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