NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Witnesses described a scene of horror Friday after a gunman opened fire inside Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.
The gunman – identified as former hospital employee Dr. Henry Bello – killed at least one person and wounded six before turning the gun on himself. He was hiding a rifle underneath his lab coat, police said.
CBS2’s Valerie Castro asked one woman who works at the hospital how she reacted when she found out someone opened fire.
“They just tell me somebody got shot. But I don’t know – they say two doctors get shot, but I don’t know,” she said. “When I heard that, my heart started beating and I pray. I called my pastor to pray for us, so I’m keeping praying and telling everybody I have to pray. Just pray. We don’t know what is going to happen to us.”
The woman said she was with about 10 people when she got down on the floor and locked the door.
“I feel so bad, because I’m shaking. I’m shaking. But I will lay down and pray. That’s all I can do,” she said.
Gonzalo Carazo, who also works at the hospital, also described his experience. He was in the cardiology department on the 12th floor, and he first smelled smoke and then the hospital suddenly went on lockdown.
“It was scary, because like being on the 12th floor, being on lockdown… the police officers, they had to be as one by one, and it was scary seeing like the blood on the doctor’s hand, and I’m just glad I got out safely,” he said. “I hope everyone else gets out safely too.”
Carazo said he did not hear any gunshots, but he did see blood on the floor and blood on a doctor’s hand.
“In my five years working here, I’ve never seen this,” Carazo said.
He said he heard an injured doctor saying, “Help! Help!” and he locked himself in a room for about 15 minutes until police evacuated him and the others in the unit.
“The staff and I were bringing the patients down one by one, and then the police basically took over,” Carazo said.
Carazo said he had heard of gunman Bello and said he used to be a work in family medicine, but he did not know Bello personally.
Phillip Zephamiah, who works in housekeeping at the hospital, said he was inside an operating room when he heard “code red,” and everyone locked themselves in. A “code silver” for a person with a weapon was also called.
When a code red happens in the middle of a surgical operation, the operation must continue. But everyone was in a panic.
“Everybody were running here and running there for cover, trying to get in the room, lock themselves up,” Zephamiah said.
Patients were also in a panic.
“Everybody said ‘Code red, shut your doors.’ We didn’t know what was going on, we were scared. I heard people screaming. … I pushed the chair to the door so nobody could come in,” a patient named Toby told CBS2’s Castro. “I got scared. I started crying, I didn’t know what to do.”
Dr. Diana Liang told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern that she and her colleagues remained calm and ensured her patients were safe during the terrifying situation.
“We locked our rooms. The unit was locked off, and then after that, we just updated, went to wherever things were happening as they were happening,” she said.
Barry Thompson told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams he was visiting his father-in-law on the 15th floor of the hospital.
“I heard a loud boom, then I heard like rumbling,” he said.
The fire sprinkler then went off. Thompson said he peered into the hallway and saw two patient who escaped down the stairs.
“The gunman came in my room and asked me, ‘Was I a doctor?’ and the patient told him no. I said well, ‘What did he have?’ He said he had an M-16 rifle, dressed like a doctor,” Thompson said. “And then he was going around asking if you were a doctor, he would shoot you.”
Garry Trimble told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes his fiancée works at the hospital and was ordered to stay inside. He said she called him to tell him what was happening, and he rushed to the scene himself.
“I told her to just lay low, and stay quiet, and don’t say nothing,” Trimble said.
He said his fiancée was distraught.
“She was crying and she said, ‘Somebody’s going around shooting, and we locked up. We barricaded ourselves in the room with employees,’” he said.
Trimble said the hospital has to do more about security, because as it is, anyone can easily get into the building through the back door. He was waiting for his fiancée to exit the hospital late Friday afternoon.
Ambulance worker Robert Maldonado was involved in triage operations after the shooting.
“We heard ‘active shooter, active shooter,’” Maldonado said. He was on the ninth floor, and said police carried a victim down from the 12th floor.
Maldonado, his partner and police officers then carried the shooting victim down nine flights of stairs to the ground floor, he told CBS2’s Castro.
Another woman who works at the hospital said she was watching coverage of the shooting on the news from an empty patient room.
“We just were like, you know, barricading the door – because you can’t lock the doors – so we just barricaded the doors, and I actually started to call home and just to talk to somebody and let them know something was going on in case something did happen to me,” she said.
Other employees were stopped by police tape as they arrived to work and were turned away at the scene.
Meanwhile, witness Dione Morales said she has been coming to the hospital for 17 years and knew something of the gunman.
“He was let go because I guess they figured he was unstable. He said he was going to do this,” she said.
Morales said Bello made the threat two years ago when he was fired. She said she did not personally hear him say it, but had heard about the threat from others.
“It was said that he said he was going to kill people, two years ago when he was let go – two years,” she said, “and now look what happened.”
Once outside, Morales, and many others, took a moment to reflect.
“I have two boys and look, they almost lost their mommy,” she said. “I think of Orlando, all of the 50-something people he killed in the bathroom, and their last moments were texting in the bathroom, just like I was.”
CBS2 has learned Bello was fired for harassing an employee. It was not clear whether Bello was looking for that employee or someone else, but he was looking for a specific person and he opened fire after failing to find that person.
Bello also tried to set himself on fire after the shooting, police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
The NYPD praised the doctors and nurses for handling the situation without panicking and for staying with their patients.
Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center describes itself as the largest voluntary, not-for-profit health care system in the south and central Bronx.