A New York hospital was sent into lockdown after an armed assailant in the hospital barricaded himself into a single room on the third floor, along with his 97-year-old mother, who was a patient at the facility.
According to WNYT, the suspect was a 61-year-old Dino Savoca, 61, of Colonie, who barricaded himself and his mother into a room at Albany Med Hospital in New York, brandishing what the police later discovered was actually a BB gun. However, police also discovered that Savoca also had a shotgun in the room with him.
61-year-old Dino Savoca of Colonie has been charged in connection with yesterday’s incident at @AlbanyMed. During the investigation, this BB gun and shotgun were recovered. He was arraigned this morning in Albany City Court. https://t.co/f2PjRxAhNt pic.twitter.com/txMsUXKxkI
— Steve Smith (@APDSmith) March 28, 2023
Timeline of The Albany Medical Hospital Lockdown
The threat began Monday afternoon at 2:40 PM when local Albany police units first received notice that someone in the facility had a weapon. Reports say that Savoca pointed what looked like a handgun at a transport employee. Savoca reportedly did not want his mother to be transported to another facility as she was scheduled to. It is not clear which gun was pointed at the employee, but again, Savoca was later found with both a shotgun and a BB gun in the room with his mother.
The hospital called their code “Silver,” which like all facilities are required to have, alerted staff that a potential active shooter was on the premises. As part of the code, the hospital went into immediate lockdown. The lockdown meant that all staff, patients, and even visitors were instructed that they could not leave the building until the all-clear was given.
During the lockdown, the Albany Police Department detailed that police members tried to verbally speak with Savoca to coax him out of the room and allow for care of his mother. However, Savoca refused to come out of the room or let anyone in and physically barred entry to the room by pushing items—like a reclining chair in the room—up against the door.
By 7 PM, the Albany Police Department’s Emergency Services Team, which is a sub-unit trained to deal with armed and barricade situations, was able to enter the room and take Savoca safely into custody. The police did employ the use of a flash device, which was not actually used in the hospital or near patients. Both he and his mother were found to be medically stable.
The police also searched Savoca’s home in Colonia and found that he had left the gas stove on, so the house was filled with natural gas and a lit candle and incense. As a result of that second situation, the fire department evacuated nearby homes.
Albany Police booked Savoca and charged him with one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon 2nd, one count of Menacing 2nd, and one count of Kidnapping 2nd. A neighbor of Savoca told police that the man appeared to have been in need of help for quite some time, adding that he was “odd” after knowing him for over a decade.
“He was someone who needed help and guidance a very long time ago,” wrote another commenter on Facebook who claimed to have known the suspect. “I knew him over 20 years ago and he needed help back then. I would see him around from time to time and he would still remember me and say hi. This shows how the world of mental health needs to be improved in helping others.”
What Happened During the Lockdown
During the terrifying ordeal that spanned several hours, anyone on the hospital’s premises was not allowed to leave as police dealt with the potential of the shooter. Rebecca Speenburgh told WNYT that she had been visiting a loved one who passed when a nurse informed them that they could not leave.
“We were about to pack everything up and leave, and then the nurse came in and was like, ‘Um, we’re on lockdown, like, you can’t leave,’” she told the outlet.
While no one was allowed to leave the hospital, some emergency patients were allowed to come in, reported WNYT, and all critical in-patient care continued. Some outpatient procedures were canceled.
From the hospital’s Twitter page, it also appeared that overnight staff continued to report to work and the hospital gave them specific instructions of how and where to enter the building safely.
Clearly, the incident was terrifying to both new and veteran staff of the hospital. Paula Ignacio was a brand-new nurse who had just started working that Monday—and she told a local news outlet it was a first day she won’t soon forget. “It was kind of scary because I haven’t heard of a Code Silver here before,” she described to CBS6 Albany. “But we were all anxious and we were all on our phone texting and calling our family.”
Ignacio also added that despite it being her first day and a literal lockdown, all of the staff continued to provide patient care. Another hospital employee, Ellie Hussar, told CBS6 that despite the fact that the employees had practiced for such a situation, actually living through it was another situation entirely. And still, her first thoughts were not for herself, but for her patients.
“I was just trying to do what I could do to get the patients as safe as possible and try to get us safe too,” she described.
What Nurses Can Do to Protect Themselves During a Lockdown
A situation like this is a chilling reminder to all hospital staff of the potential threats that every day holds at work from not only patients but also family members and visitors of families. According to a 2021 report from the National Institute of Health, 25% of nurses reported physical abuse from a patient or family member—and that’s a number that is likely higher because of underreporting.
If you are a nurse caring for patients, be sure to talk to your managers and hospital administrators about policies and procedures in place for staff protection so you know exactly what to do should a potential threat arise.
It might be helpful to:
Know who to call if you sense or spot a potential threat.
Know where to go for safety in the event of a potential threat.
Know the procedure for a lockdown for yourself and your patients.
Have the numbers of local emergency and police units.
Know what constitutes a potential threat at your facility.
And if your hospital doesn’t have any policies or procedures in place, or you feel that they are not doing enough to support proactive solutions against nurse violence, visit the American Nurses’ Association End Nurse Abuse page for more information about how to report abuse and find more resources to help.