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One in custody for threat against WMMC

Man never entered hospital, no shots fired

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to include information from WMMC CEO Darinda Dick, WMMC Public Information Officer Tara Carlyle, JCAD Director Shane Lockard and WPD Interim Police Chief Andy Munsterman.

WARRENSBURG — A man is in custody and no one is injured after a threat was made against Western Missouri Medical Center on Friday morning.

Public Information Officer Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told the media during a press conference at 11 a.m. Friday that after searching the facility, law enforcement determined an armed person was never at the main hospital, 403 Burkarth Road. The man in question was detained “a significant distance from the hospital” and placed on a 24-hour hold at the Johnson County Jail. On Facebook, the Warrensburg Police Department called the man a “person of interest.”

Lowe said it’s too early to indicate why the threat was made against WMMC and it is unclear at this time how the threat came in. Law enforcement will be investigating who made the threat, how the threat was made and what information was received. Lowe added that he didn’t know if officers found any weapons when the man was arrested. 

The press conference took place at Grover Park Baptist Church, across the street from WMMC, where staff members were evacuated to during the situation. It also served as a staging area for responding agencies.

According to Lowe, WMMC informed MSHP around 8:30 a.m. of an armed individual on the premises who had entered the facility. Troopers in the area responded to WMMC along with WPD officers and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputies also in the area. More officers from all three agencies and support from numerous other agencies soon arrived on scene.

“During the search, the course of looking for the individual, we cleared everything in the hospital and there wasn’t anyone located,” Lowe said. “We have since determined the individual that made the threat, we have made contact with him, he’s been arrested and placed on a 24-hold.

“I want to emphasize, there was no one on the premises with a long gun, there was no one inside the hospital with a long gun. Again, like we’ve said before, we’re thankful this incident was not escalated any further.”

WMMC CEO Darinda Dick said the hospital was alerted to a threat made by a possible previous patient stating they were planning to purchase an assault rifle. 

“We immediately went on lockdown as soon as we had heard the threat, so then we also heard that somebody was noticed outside the building right after the lockdown,” Dick told the Star-Journal. 

Lowe said that within minutes of the threat, WMMC notified law enforcement. He said members of MSHP, WPD and the sheriff’s office in the area responded quickly. 

Warrensburg Police Department Interim Police Chief Andy Munsterman was in command during the active scene. 

WMMC has previously conducted active shooter drills with local agencies, including WPD, Warrensburg Fire Department, Johnson County Ambulance District and JCSO. 

“It was challenging, but we train for these types of incidents,” Munsterman told the Star-Journal. “All responding agencies worked very well together and I appreciate all their assistance.” 

Munsterman said previous training and drills were beneficial in preparing officers and the hospital for this kind of situation. 

“I think we all knew pretty well what we were doing,” WMMC Public Information Officer Tara Carlyle told the Star-Journal. “Obviously there were nerves and it was a scary situation, but people came together quickly, were prepared. … Police were on site so quickly, within minutes.” 

Lowe said it took law enforcement about two and a half hours to clear the building and ensure no one was inside. As of the press conference, law enforcement deemed the hospital safe for patients and personnel to return. Numerous businesses and facilities in the area, including the Warrensburg Community Center, were on lockdown during the situation.

“It’s a huge challenge because of the significant number of rooms, the significant number that are locked for anyone to get in and access,” Lowe said of clearing and searching the hospital. “The initial challenge, anyone in there who is ill, we want to make sure they’re safe and not compromised by us going in. This is a huge task to undertake, but this is what we train for. Situations like this, we responded like we should respond. We had officers going in immediately to assess the threat, find the threat. And we had other officers arriving on the scene. All in all, it worked like it’s supposed to. It’s just unfortunate the alarming nature of this wasn’t needed, there wasn’t anyone on the premises or near the premises.” 

Lowe said he applauds the work of the other agencies that responded, including WPD, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and a federal task force. Other agencies on scene included WFD, JCAD and Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, along with agencies from outside the county such as the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office. 

JCAD Director Shane Lockard told the Star-Journal there were 14 ambulances on scene and 12 more en route when the all-clear was announced.  

Ambulances and EMTs crews from Johnson County, Lexington, Wellington-Napoleon, Concordia, Sni Valley, Odessa and Lee’s Summit were present. 

Lockard said ambulance crews and districts involved are part of an aid system put in place after the 2011 Joplin tornado. 

Lowe said communication was key with so many agencies working together to resolve the situation.

“Over the course of several years, we’ve indicated how we're going to respond, how we’re going to react to situations like this,” Lowe said. “When we come together, we're pretty well versed to identify who we are so we aren’t viewing ourselves as a threat. Training, training, training is key in situations like this. It goes without saying, we never want to have to utilize that training, but as we've seen, there's a possibility that it would happen.”

Carlyle said the daily ongoings of the hospital were impacted and there were patients who were diverted to other area hospitals. 

“We did have to divert some patients who were in the emergency department who were more critical that needed to be moved to another facility,” Carlyle told the Star-Journal. “Our CEO had that connection really quickly and we worked with Bothwell Regional Health Center (in Sedalia) and (other) hospitals, wherever they needed to go. There were only a few that needed to be transferred.” 

Dick said patients were not evacuated and only patients that needed to be transported were transported. 

“We have a great emergency preparedness group in this community,” Dick told the Star-Journal. “I really want to thank all of our neighboring facilities.” 

Dick said there were a number of facilities reaching out to offer bed space or use of facilities. 

“I know we have patients that are still in the hospital that we never brought out who want to leave,” Dick said. “We’re going to be working through those processes and possibly transporting people just so they feel safe. That is our number one priority, just to make sure that our patients and our staff feel safe.”

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