Albemarle Hospital locked down its emergency room Monday after admitting an 18-year-old man with a gunshot wound in what police believe was gang violence. From 3 p.m. to about 6 p.m., the public was not allowed entry as police interviewed the victim and ensured rival gang members would not follow their victim to the hospital, said Lt. Jamie LaCombe, commander of the Investigative Services Division of the Elizabeth City Police Department.
Violent crimes, such as shootings, rapes and assaults, can lead to a lock down or security measures. Albemarle Hospital goes into what officials call "security level" a few times a year. Because of Sept. 11, 2001, and terrorist attacks and now a steady amount of gang violence in Elizabeth City, Albemarle Hospital has hired on-site security officers, installed more lighting and alarm boxes in the parking lot, placed security cameras inside and out, and regularly runs security level drills.
Security level, including locking down the emergency room, can remain in place as long as police and hospital officials believe it’s necessary. Albemarle Hospital will open a larger and more modern emergency department June 24, he said. As part of the upgrade, the hospital security team will be located in the emergency room.
Doctors and nurses work from an office centered within the patient rooms. The number of beds has been increased to 34 from 16, but instead of curtains separating patients, each gets a room, adding to comfort and safety. Health facilities nationwide are enhancing security, said Lonny Wilder, vice president of the Public Safety Group for the Critical Information Network.
Rival gang members have been known to hang out in the hospital parking lot and start fights with a victim’s gang associates who come to visit, he said. They have donned scrubs and a stethoscope, walked into a busy emergency room and pulled intravenous tubes from their victim, he said.
Security officers used to carry a baton or pepper spray and received minimal training. "Now these guys have to carry lethal weapons," Wilder said. Monday’s shooting victim was sitting in a chair on the front lawn of his home on Price Street, said Detective B. J. Morgan with the Elizabeth City Police Department.
A vehicle described as a green Ford Explorer stopped, and a man got out and fired two shots from a handgun, the detective said. One bullet hit the house. The other hit the victim in the leg. His wounds were not life-threatening, and he was treated and released after about two days in the hospital. Police have no suspects in the shooting but believe it was gang-related.
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