On the same day that police seized a gun from an HCMC patient who was shot in the face on a Metro Transit bus in downtown Minneapolis during deadly gunfire, a senior nurse at the hospital said there’s nothing to stop unauthorized weapons from getting in the facility.
A Minneapolis police officer on Tuesday recovered the revolver in a bag from a dresser drawer in the fourth-floor room of 27-year-old James P. Wilkins. The revolver was “in his possession,” according to search warrant affidavit’s inventory filed with the District Court.
HCMC spokeswoman Christine Hill declined to address how the gun ended up in the room, but she said all items that arrive with a crime victim to the hospital “are considered evidence and given to law enforcement.”
The hospital maintains its own 24/7 security staff. Also, the Sheriff’s Office provides one deputy from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week to “primarily act as a guard” for the emergency room, said sheriff’s spokesman Jeremy Zoss.
There is a substantial network of security cameras throughout the facility but no metal detectors anywhere on the property, according to a senior staff nurse. HCMC also clearly posts signs that say guns are banned on the premises.
Sarah Simons, who also chairs the Minnesota Nurses Association at HCMC, said adding metal detectors “has been explored, and I think it’s worth considering … as long as it doesn’t deter people from seeking medical attention.”
Simons said that while HCMC’s security staff “is exceptional,” the ability of someone to walk into HCMC with a gun in a bag would be “not any harder than it is to do in any other public space.”
Minneapolis police do not have a security role at the Twin Cities’ largest safety-net hospital and Level 1 trauma center, which routinely receives victims of violence from the city and many other communities.
Police spokesman John Elder said his department is concerned about the discovery, and he said it is “also very troubling for the nursing staff and the other medical staff, certainly.”
Given the active investigation into the shooting, Elder declined to say whether an officer was assigned to Wilkins’ hospital room at any time while he was there.
Wilkins was wounded Thursday night and 51-year-old Tommy McCoy was killed by gunfire inside the bus from Malcolm J. Lessley, 26, according to second-degree murder charges filed Friday.
In seeking court approval for permission to search Wilkins’ room, the affidavit detailed the gun’s movements shortly before the shots were fired:
The informant told police Monday that Wilkins had “a handgun in his possession” in the hospital, prompting police to review bus video surveillance and pay particular attention to Wilkins’s actions before the shots were fired.
The video showed Wilkins, a felon whose convictions prevent him from legally possessing a firearm, receive a handgun from a female and tuck it in his waistband. After being shot, Wilkins gave the gun back to her before emergency personnel took him to HCMC.
About 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, the officer went into Wilkins’ fourth-floor room and seized a bag from the dresser’s bottom drawer that held the revolver. The officer also seized mail from the top of the dresser. The search warrant affidavit did not mention whether the gun was loaded or whether any ammunition was located.
Wilkins has since been released from the hospital.
Court records show Wilkins has had numerous convictions in Minnesota spanning his entire adult life including four for assault, two for disorderly conduct and one for burglary.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482