BILLINGS - When members of a U.S. Marshals task force tried to serve a warrant last Friday, the courtyard in front of the Billings Clinic emergency department became the scene of a deadly encounter.
John Marshall, 48, was killed by bullets from a half-dozen law enforcement officials. As he was taken into the emergency room, the area around the hospital's main entry was roped off for authorities' investigation.
A stray bullet, which authorities said was discharged from a gun Marshall carried as he ran from them, had shattered the glass in an emergency exit door connected to the pediatric unit.
The situation had taken hospital officials by surprise, but staff worked quickly to keep the hospital functioning and to support those affected by the situation.
"As soon as we became aware of the officer-involved shooting, we implemented our emergency management protocols," said Jim Duncan, president of the Billings Clinic Foundation and Community Relations.
"In this case, once we knew that the incident was basically over, and there was not any further concern, then we quickly went into the mode of 'Now, what do we need to do to calm the situation and take care of people who are here on our facility or grounds,'" Duncan said.
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The door hit by gunfire led to a hallway that was unoccupied by patients or family members at the time, Duncan said, but hospital staff relocated pediatric department operations across campus to the clinic's same-day care facility.
A portion of the vehicle access loop in the courtyard was taped off with a dozen or so patient and guest cars parked inside.
Hospital staff gave those inconvenienced guests meals from the cafeteria and offered to arrange transportation and, if necessary, overnight accommodations, Duncan said.
Crisis counselors were also on hand to visit with any witnesses shaken up by the incident.
Those counselors continue to be available to anyone who was on the Billings Clinic campus that afternoon. The hospital is in the process of sending letters to all patients and guardians who had scheduled appointments in the pediatric department, apologizing for any distress and offering counseling services.
Anyone interested in meeting with a counselor can call the hospital at 657-4677.
After the incident was over, hospital leadership learned that law enforcement had discreetly asked for assistance in getting the suspect out of the building, Duncan said.
Despite the shooting's proximity to the hospital entrance, services were functioning normally a short time later.
"For such a serious event, the disruption was minimal," Duncan said. "In this case, it's just the emotional effects. That's the part we're most concerned about."