'This one hit home': Security expert gives insight into Philadelphia hospital shooting

"It's rare, but we are seeing an increase in workplace violence," he said.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Monday, October 4, 2021
"This one hit home" Security expert gives hospital shooting insight
Even though Paul Sarnese doesn't work at Jefferson Hospital, where a gunman opened fire, just hearing about the shooting made him feel the impact.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Even though Paul Sarnese doesn't work at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City Philadelphia, where a gunman opened fire early Monday morning, just hearing about the shooting made him feel the impact.

"This one hit home. I do have friends and colleagues who work there. Unfortunately, this could be any healthcare facility, anywhere in the country," he said.

Sarnese is president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. He is also assistant vice president of safety, security and emergency management at Virtua Health.

He is tasked with not only developing security measures but also training healthcare and hospital workers on how to respond to security threats. It's a reality given the nature of the business.

"Hospitals are open 24/7," he said. "We see people sometimes and they are in situations under incredible stress and anxiety."

Investigators say this time though, the threat came from a coworker inside of Jefferson Hospital.

Philadelphia police say the suspect was wearing scrubs, body armor and had at least two guns.

Philadelphia police say the gunman was a hospital employee who shot Certified Nursing Assistant Anrae James, who was 43 years old. A neighbor tells Action News that James was a "good man" whom she would see coming and going from his home, oftentimes for work.

Police are still investigating a motive; however, they do say that the shooter targeted the victim specifically.

Anrae James

Sarnese says when it comes to a coworker shooting another worker, oftentimes there are signs.

"Typically, things don't just happen. There's a verbal warning indication, there's a physical warning indication," he said.

The 6abc Data Team researched workplace shootings in our area. Their research revealed that there have only been a handful of workplace shootings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in recent years.

"It's rare, but we are seeing an increase in workplace violence - not just in healthcare but in all industries," said Sarnese.

Last Friday, a shooting claimed the life of a security guard inside an office building in the Logan section of Philadelphia.

The suspect in Friday's shooting was a man who, sources say, posted a rant about the very office he attacked.

"Why do we see it in the workplace? It's a predictable environment," said Sarnese. "We know where people park, we know the day that they work. We know when they're off."

Sarnese coaches hospital workers and all workers to stick with the adage of "run, hide, fight" if they're ever in that same building as an active shooter.

He adds that workers in hospitals are constantly taking care of patients, but they should also take care of themselves and report any coworker who acts suspiciously.