Eyewitness says attacker was armed with hammer and machete
A Red Deer, Alta., physician died Monday after he was attacked in an examination room at the Village Mall walk-in clinic. RCMP said one man is in custody and the major crimes unit has taken over what police called “an active homicide investigation.”
“I’m sickened to learn that a member of our community died in this violent tragedy. My heart breaks for the victim’s family and friends, and I offer my sincerest condolences to all who are grieving this evening,” Supt. Gerald Grobmeier, detachment commander of the Red Deer RCMP, said Monday evening.
Grobmeier said that during the police response one officer was hit by a blunt weapon by the suspect and suffered minor injuries. The officer then disarmed and arrested the suspect without further incident.
Grobmeier said Red Deer RCMP responded in two to three minutes and had a suspect in custody within five minutes. The response time likely prevented further tragedy, Grobmeier said.
He said the attack was an isolated incident that doesn’t present further danger to the community. But the event was traumatic for everyone involved, including officers, physicians and witnesses, Grobmeier said.
Witness recounts attack
Anina Mullin said she was in the clinic with her 13-year-old daughter when she suddenly heard screams coming from an examination room.
She heard someone yell, “Help me, help me. Call 911.” Mullin said she heard banging and it sounded like the victim was trying to save himself and fight off the attacker.
She said a panicked receptionist enlisted help from two male patients who tried to get into the room, but Mullin said someone slammed the door in their faces. They then ran to the reception area, where Mullin was standing, waiting to be checked in.
“So I just grabbed my daughter’s hand … and we just ran out the door as fast as we could,” she said. The two men pushed against the door from the outside to make sure the attacker couldn’t escape. As Mullin watched from her car, police, paramedics and the fire department arrived outside the clinic.
“One of the cops went to the door with his gun drawn and poked his head in,” Mullin said. “I heard him yell, ‘Put that down or I will shoot.” She said someone threw a blood-soaked hammer at the police and it flew out the door and onto the cement pad in front of the clinic. She heard the officer order the man to put a machete down. Then officers rushed inside the clinic.
Mullin saw officers lead out a man she described as “huge.” He was wearing a grey hoodie and baggy grey pants and she said he had a disposable face mask that wasn’t covering his mouth, so she could see him with “kind of a smirk on his face.”
‘Covered in blood’
Mullin watched in horror as her long-time family doctor was taken out on a stretcher. “He was covered in blood from his head to his belt area. They were applying pressure to his forehead.” At this time, CBC News is not naming the doctor.
Mullin described her doctor as “amazing.” While she continued to watch, Mullin saw other staff members pour out of the clinic at 6230 50th Ave. “They were just beside themselves,” she said. “It was awful.”
The victim died in hospital, Grobmeier said. Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the Alberta Medical Association, said the news of the attack came as a shock and said the organization will be reaching out to staff at the Red Deer clinic. “I have just learned of this horrific attack on a Red Deer physician,” she said.
“I can’t express my sense of disbelief and great sorrow for his family, his colleagues and the Red Deer community. The AMA will be reaching out to local medical staff to learn how we can best provide support at this time.” Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer offered her condolences on Monday afternoon, calling the incident a “horrific tragedy.”
“I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, loved ones, and to the medical community in our city,” Veer said in a statement on the city’s website.
Veer also offered thanks to first responders and citizens who supported at the scene of the attack. Those who are feeling trauma after seeing the attack should call Red Deer City Victim Services for assistance, Veer added.
Dr. Peter Bouch, a general practitioner in Red Deer and spokesperson for the Red Deer Primary Care Network, said he felt total surprise and horror that someone would do this to a physician. “It is shocking that somebody would bring a weapon to a physician’s office,” Bouch said.
“You’ve been trained years ago on how to manage difficult patients, but when they come out wielding a weapon, I don’t think anybody’s prepared for that.”
Bouch said it’s still unclear to him what the full effect of this incident will be, but he said he expects it to affect more than just family physicians. He said he thinks patients are going to be feeling that danger when they visit their doctor as well.
“A physician’s office is a place of safety, and it’s clearly being disrupted now,” Bouch said. A candlelight vigil for the doctor and his family has been planned for Friday at Red Deer City Hall.