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Armed man runs into hospital clinic, kills doctor, self

February 20, 1997

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A man carrying a shotgun ran into a Veterans Administration hospital clinic Wednesday and fatally shot his doctor with one blast before killing himself with another.

The gunman, Victor L. Bowles, was a 48-year-old Vietnam veteran who had worked briefly at the hospital as a janitor in the 1970s and had been treated for physical and mental problems at the center for years.

``He had multiple physical problems resulting from his service in the military,″ said VA spokesman Joe McAnally. He declined to say whether the man was being treated for a mental condition.

Dr. Ralph Carter, 46, died while undergoing emergency surgery for a shotgun blast to the chest. The pulmonary specialist had worked at the hospital since the mid-1970s, and had been treating Bowles for bronchitis.

Police said the gunman lived about 80 miles north in the small community of Ethyl. Witnesses say he pulled his pickup truck to the hospital’s outpatient clinic and ran inside carrying the 12-gauge shotgun, pursued by three security guards.

``From the look on his face, man, you could tell that he came in there to do the business that he did,″ said Billie Jean Allegrezza, who was walking outside with her husband as the gunman ran in.

She said the first gunshot sounded, ``and the security guard hollered, `Oh my God, everyone start evacuating! Get out of this building!′ ″

``It was a short time before the second shot was fired,″ said Johnny Allegrezza. ``It was a single automatic shotgun. He had his mind set on what he was going to do. He parked his truck on the side, so he knew right where he was going.″

The shooting happened just feet away from the VA’s security office. Afterward, federal agents moved the gunman’s pickup truck and the clinic closed for the day. Ambulances were diverted to other hospitals.

While investigators looked for a motive, a hospital official said the shooting would be hard on veterans who count on the hospital as a refuge from post-traumatic stress.

``A lot of people who come here because they’ve seen a lot of violence,″ said Dr. Judy Lyons, chief of trauma recovery. ``We have to re-establish a sense of security for them.″

The medical facility serves about 500 outpatients daily and has beds for 200 patients and 120 extended-care residents.

Two years ago, a man threw sulfuric acid into a doctor’s face in the hospital’s parking lot. That attacker was later sentenced to 20 years in prison.

McAnally said security at the hospital was beefed up following that attack, but only so much can be done.

``We are a public hospital. We have to be open,″ he said. ``We treat some troubled people as do many hospitals. ... They reflect a cross-section of society. Some of them are very troubled and that’s why they come here.″

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