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Out of sedation, hospital shooting suspect is charged with murder in caseworker's death

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PHILADELPHIA — A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

Richard Plotts was arraigned late Saturday at his hospital bedside after emerging from sedation, said Emily Harris, spokeswoman for the Delaware County district attorney's office.

Plotts, 49, was ranting about Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital's gun ban Thursday before he shot 53-year-old caseworker Theresa Hunt during an appointment, authorities said. Psychiatrist Lee Silverman crouched behind a chair and pulled out his own gun, firing several shots at Plotts, authorities said.

Plotts had 39 unspent bullets on him when he was wrestled to the ground, police said. Two guns, including a revolver that police said he used to kill Hunt, were found at the scene.

"If the doctor did not have a firearm, (and) the doctor did not utilize the firearm, he'd be dead today, and I believe that other people in that facility would also be dead," District Attorney Jack Whelan said Saturday.

PHOTO: A police officer carries his weapon near the scene of a shooting at the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. on Thursday, July 24, 2014. A prosecutor said a gunman opened fire inside the psychiatric unit leaving one hospital employee dead and a second injured before being critically wounded himself. (AP Photo)
A police officer carries his weapon near the scene of a shooting at the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. on Thursday, July 24, 2014. A prosecutor said a gunman opened fire inside the psychiatric unit leaving one hospital employee dead and a second injured before being critically wounded himself. (AP Photo)

Hunt's brother, Dennis, told WPVI-TV that she was strong and good-hearted. The family called her "Mother Theresa," he said.

Silverman, who was struck in the thumb and grazed in the temple but not seriously injured, hasn't spoken publicly about the encounter.

Police seized two additional guns when they searched Plotts' home in Clifton Heights, Whelan said.

Plotts is being guarded by police as he recuperates from his wounds at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

It was unclear whether Plotts, who lived alone, has a lawyer or relatives in the area. A call to his lawyer from an earlier case wasn't returned.

Police in Upper Darby, where Plotts once lived, cited at least three mental health commitments, including one after he cut his wrists and one after he threatened suicide. His record also includes past assault, drug and gun charges, according to police and court records.

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Video:
PHOTO: A doctor who was grazed by gunfire from a patient in his office at a suburban hospital on Thursday helped stop him by apparently returning fire with his own weapon and severely injuring him, but not before a caseworker was killed. (July 24)
A doctor who was grazed by gunfire from a patient in his office at a suburban hospital on Thursday helped stop him by apparently returning fire with his own weapon and severely injuring him, but not before a caseworker was killed. (July 24) PHOTO: A doctor wounded by a patient in a deadly shooting at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital campus returned fire and wounded the patient, authorities said. (July 24)
A doctor wounded by a patient in a deadly shooting at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital campus returned fire and wounded the patient, authorities said. (July 24)
Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: An officer walks near the scene of a shooting Thursday, July 24, 2014, at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. A shooting at a suburban Philadelphia hospital campus has killed one worker and injured two other people. (AP Photo)
Click to view (10 Photos)
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