Patient shoots nurse at mental health clinic in Willowbrook


February 3, 2015

hands of a prisoner behind barsWhile urgent care centers typically provide immediate treatment for non-life-threatening medical conditions, a small number of these walk-in clinics have begun to offer psychiatric services as well. Supporters of this decision say that this option drastically expands mental health care in a nation where these treatments are rarely readily available. However, a recent incident at a mental health urgent care clinic’s location demonstrates that just like physical conditions, mental illnesses should be carefully considered before seeking care.

On Monday, February 2, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) reported that a shooting had occurred on the medical campus in Willowbrook, where Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital is located. The hospital shares the campus with Exodus Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic, a private mental health care provider. Police officials have reported that the shooting was non-fatal, and the victim is reportedly in stable condition.

While the details are still vague, the LASD has stated that the gunman, Vincent Heard, 20, was a patient who had been brought to the clinic by family members seeking a mental health evaluation. Over the course of his initial check-in, Heard reportedly grew agitated and increasingly paranoid. Concerned, the nurse practitioner summoned the clinic’s unarmed security guards, who tried to escort him out of the interview areas. At some point during this process, Heard began resisting and shouted “I have a gun!” Moments later, the gun discharged, hitting a nurse in the upper thigh.

The president of Exodus Foundation, Luana Murphy, has stated that the clinic believes the gun was fired accidentally. However, Heard has been arrested on assault charges and is being held on $120,000 bail. The nurse, an unnamed 24 year old man, was immediately escorted to the hospital.

LASD officers were initially called to the scene at 12:11 p.m. and remained stationed outside the clinic and hospital for several hours. Meanwhile, Murphy has stated that Exodus will be installing metal detectors to prevent similar incidents in the future. She said the clinic had originally decided against including this security measure in order to create a more welcoming atmosphere for patients.