Readings — From the October 2014 issue

Good Guy With a Gun

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From a complaint filed in July against Heritage Park Care Center, a nursing home in Carbondale, Colorado, by Michelle Meeker, a former nurse at the facility. The case is ongoing.

On October 16, 2013, Ms. Meeker arrived at HPCC at 6:00 a.m. for her twelve-hour shift. She was already feeling overwhelmed when, around 1:00 p.m., one of the residents began experiencing respiratory distress. Meeker could not find the suction equipment needed to assist the resident and sought help from her supervisor, Director of Nursing Melanie Holmes. After locating the equipment, Holmes told Meeker to find out what the gentleman sitting in the day room wanted, because he looked “suspicious.” She approached the man and asked if he needed help. The man gestured for Meeker to follow him. When they got to the end of the hall, he stopped at the last doorway on the right, turned and pulled his jacket back, revealing a gun tucked into the waistband of his jeans. The man ordered Meeker into the room. When she refused, he put one hand on the gun and placed his other hand on her back. Meeker began to cry. She begged the man not to hurt her, telling him she had a young child. As Meeker cried for her life, the man said in a hushed tone that this was a drill, that he was a Carbondale police officer, and that he needed Meeker to get in the room so he could continue.

Once inside, the man instructed Meeker to help him “capture” one of her co-workers. Several minutes later, one of the facility’s nursing assistants, Zach, walked by. The man showed his gun and told Meeker and Zach to walk down the hall in front of him as though they were hostages. When they neared the dayroom, the man directed Meeker and Zach to go into the executive director’s office. For the next twenty minutes, the gunman and management criticized Meeker for the things they felt she had done wrong during the active shooter drill. For example, she could have done better by yelling out, knocking over a nursing cart, and bringing more attention to the situation. At the conclusion of the debriefing, Meeker was directed to return to work and finish the next five hours of her shift. Although Meeker rarely cries, she was unable to stop sobbing that evening and throughout the next four days.

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