'No warning whatsoever': Former doc's fatal rampage shocks NYC hospital

Hospital Safety Insider, July 6, 2017

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Despite troubled past, doctor passed multiple background checks before last week’s mass shooting

More than two years after quitting his job as a house physician at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York City, Henry Bello, MD, returned Friday afternoon with a rifle hidden under his white lab coat. The disgruntled former employee used the weapon to kill one doctor and injure six other people before ending his own life.

Bello, 45, had worked for the hospital just six months until his forced resignation in 2015 amid an allegation of sexual harassment, The New York Times reported. Even so, hospital administrators said they saw no indication that Bello would come back to the facility and open fire. “There was no warning whatsoever that he would return or that he would ever take this kind of action,” Bronx-Lebanon spokesman Errol Schneer said Saturday morning, ABC News reported.

Some former colleagues received angry emails from Bello after his resignation, CBS News reported. The messages reportedly went so far as to state that Bello would come back to kill his former coworkers; however, the hospital said it had been notified of no such threats.

Despite a troubled past that included four arrests, Bello managed to pass at least three background checks, including one to legally purchase the weapon he used in Friday’s rampage. Less than two weeks before the shooting, Bello had legally purchased a semiautomatic AM-15 in Schenectady, New York, passing a federal background check and complying with the state’s strict gun control laws, the Times reported Monday.

The federal background check determines whether a given person falls into any of nine categories of people who are prohibited from owning firearms: felons, immigrants without legal permission to be in the United States, those actively using drugs, former military service members who were dishonorably discharged, people with protection orders in family disputes, and those with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence. Bello’s misdemeanor criminal record would not have placed him in any of those nine categories.

In 2003, Bello was arrested for burglary and fare beating. In 2004, he was arrested and charged with sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment after a woman accused him of grabbing her by her genitals on a Manhattan street, lifting her in the air, and trying to drag her away while saying something to the effect of “You’re coming with me,” the Times reported Friday. The felony sexual abuse charge was dismissed when Bello pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to community service.

In 2009, Bello was arrested on a charge of unlawful surveillance after two women accused him of looking up their skirts with a mirror, NBC News reported Sunday. The case was later sealed.

The hospital was not aware of Bello’s criminal record when he was hired in 2014, despite running a background check, the Times reported.

“At that time, and as a result of a human resources and security department background check, which includes fingerprinting, there was no record of any conviction for sexual abuse,” Schneer said.

Bello’s title as a house physician meant that he could treat patients and prescribe medication only if other doctors were looking over his shoulder, Schneer noted. Bello, who had been using a limited permit to practice medicine, spent stints living at a homeless shelter, a transitional housing facility, and in a private apartment with the help of a public housing subsidy in recent years.

Bello passed another background check and was hired last September by the city government as a case worker with the Human Resources Administration to assist patients living with HIV/AIDS, NBC News reported. Bello quit coming to work in April, however, citing personal problems. He was officially fired June 21—nine days before the attack.

If your facility could use more insight on how to plan for, respond to, and recover from an active shooter event, consider signing up for HCPro’s 90-minute webinar on the topic Thursday, July 20, 2017, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern. If a book format would work better for you and your team, take a look at The Active Shooter Response Toolkit for Healthcare Workers as well.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the weekday on which HCPro will host an active shooter webinar. It is Thursday, July 20, not Tuesday.

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