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Surgical Reminiscence
November 2001


Arch Surg. 2001;136(11):1323. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.11.1323

IN 1969, during my last year of residency in the United States, I was chief resident in surgery at St Luke's Hospital (Bethlehem, Pa). One night, a 37-year-old man arrived in a critical state at the emergency department with multiple bullet wounds. This man, whom we will call Joe, had worked for a number of years at the Bethlehem Post Office but had to leave the job because of a severe mental disorder that made him act strangely on occasion.

One Sunday afternoon, Joe arrived at the post office carrying a .12 caliber rifle and asking for the head of the post office because he wanted to kill him. Fortunately, the boss was not there, and Joe left in a rage to find him. The workers called the police. I was having lunch on the third floor of 555 Springer St with my wife when we heard the police sirens close to our house, followed by gunshots. A few moments later, a call came from the hospital asking me to hurry back. When the police found Joe, who was out looking for his ex-boss to kill him, they cornered him in an alley. Police cars surrounded him. He got out of his car with rifle in hand, and the officers started negotiating with him. Apparently he agreed to turn himself in, and one of the police officers, convinced, put away his gun and walked toward Joe to take him in. Suddenly, Joe lifted his rifle and shot the officer at close range, killing him instantly. The other officers immediately fired back, shooting Joe several times in the forearms, thorax, and abdomen.

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