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Man described as paranoid shoots, wounds mental health worker at Los Angeles-area clinic

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LOS ANGELES — A man described as paranoid shot and wounded a mental health worker Monday during a struggle at a Los Angeles-area clinic where he had sought help, but the employee was expected to survive, officials said.

The shooting occurred shortly after noon at a mental health urgent care center that shares a campus with Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in unincorporated Willowbrook.

The gunman, 20-year-old Vincent Heard, entered the clinic and was being interviewed in the office of a nurse practitioner when he became agitated, sheriff's officials said.

Heard "became more and more paranoid," and the nurse practitioner pushed a "panic button," said Luana Murphy, president and CEO of Exodus Foundation, which operates the clinic.

Two unarmed security guards arrived and tried to get the man to leave, but there was a struggle during which a gun went off, Murphy said.

A mental health worker who was nearby was shot in the thigh and was hospitalized in stable condition, she said.

The man had managed to bring the gun into the building, but "my staff did not feel he intended to" shoot anyone, Murphy said.

Heard was detained, nobody else was hurt and the building was not evacuated, Murphy said.

Murphy said she did not want the man to face criminal charges.

"This is a young man with mental illness who came to the urgent care center seeking help, and his condition continued to deteriorate," she said. "The clinicians recognized that this was a young man in crisis."

Heard was later arrested and was being held on $120,000 bail. Sheriff's officials reached by phone did not know if he had retained an attorney.

Exodus operates three clinics in Los Angeles County that see 20,000 clients a year, including about 50 clients a day at the Willowbrook facility. It was the first shooting in the nine years that the foundation has been operating the clinics, Murphy said.

The clinics did not have metal detectors "because I wanted a very warm and welcoming environment where somebody who was in distress could come in and feel welcome," she said. "Unfortunately, we are now going to have metal detectors."

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