As the man who opened fire inside of Wyoming Medical Center in March awaits sentencing, the state’s largest hospital is moving ahead with a swath of safety upgrades related to the incident, from better security cameras to the potential for some armed security guards.
The hospital has had several agencies — including Casper Police and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office — perform a security assessment of the sprawling facility since March 4, when Mitchell Taylor entered the hospital and opened fire. Taylor was convicted last month on two counts of aggravated assault. He previously pleaded guilty to destroying more than $6,000 worth of property at the hospital when he fired seven bullets into a door, two walls and an elevator door. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years for the three convictions.
Another assessment — this one done by a Department of Homeland Security official — is set for this fall. That study will include the hospital and other WMC properties, like its east campus and primary care clinics, hospital officials told the Star-Tribune this week.
Mike Staley, the hospital’s chief administrative officer, said the hospital has began securing all doors on its campus after 9 p.m., with the exception of the ER door on Second Street. Those locked doors — as well as other interior doors that Taylor was able to walk through — will now require badge access to enter. The new door system also allows hospital security to essentially close and lock doors in the event of an emergency, effectively sealing parts or all of WMC.
During Taylor’s trial last month, multiple police officers said they had no communication with each other or with outside authorities as they swept the building. Staley said the hospital is working on upgrading its radio capabilities, a project that will be partially funded through a $35,000 grant from the Homeland Security Department.
The strength of WMC’s security also came up during the trial, when Taylor’s defense attorney said the hospital’s security chief had “dropped the ball and kicked it down the road” the night of the shooting. While initial police reports that Taylor had entered the hospital through an unlocked back door proved to be false, the reality — that he walked in through the ER entrance and wasn’t stopped as he proceeded past the ER and into the hospital — presented other problems.
Staley said the hospital was bringing its security in house — rather than contracting it out — and expanding it to 21 officers. Those guards aren’t armed, he said, though the hospital is hiring for “some positions” for armed personnel. He and Michele Chulick, the hospital’s CEO, said they hadn’t received qualified candidates yet for those openings.
More cameras are being added and others are being upgraded, the officials added, and further training will be provided to staff to ensure all hospital employees know what to do in the event of a crisis.
Perhaps the most noticeable change that’s being discussed publicly will come to the ER entrance. Chulick and Staley were somewhat vague in describing it, though Chulick said there would be a “redesign.” Currently, the only security station in the hospital that’s manned 24 hours a day is at the entrance to the emergency department — which Taylor walked right past.
Chulick and Staley said the hospital recently had a first meeting with an architect to begin the redesign. Chulick said a security guard will now be tasked solely with watching security cameras, while another will man the metal detector — which has been upgraded — and monitor those entering the ER and hospital.
In a followup email, hospital spokeswoman Kristy Bleizeffer said the redesign “is in the preliminary stages” and that the hospital isn’t yet sure of the final look or of the timeline needed to begin and finish the work. It’s unclear how much the entirety of the security overhaul will cost — officials were unable to provide figures to the Star-Tribune by press time Wednesday.