Arkansas hospital visitor shot dead; acquaintance arrested

Audacy - The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A man visiting a patient at a Little Rock-area hospital was shot dead Wednesday by a person he knew, and the suspect was arrested about an hour later at a gas station, police said.

Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Hagar said police found 21-year-old Leighton Whitfield dead on the fourth floor of CHI St. Vincent North in Sherwood, which was on lockdown as authorities responded to reports of the shooting

A little over an hour after the shooting, 24-year-old Raymond Lovett was taken into custody by Little Rock police at an Exxon station about 15 miles from the hospital. Charges had not been filed yet against Lovett, Hagar said Wednesday afternoon.

“It appears to be an isolated event that just happened to take place in a public facility," Hagar said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

A hospital spokesman said the hospital's lockdown had been lifted early Wednesday afternoon.

Sherwood is a city of about 33,000 people located northeast of Little Rock.

Hospital workers could be seen meeting colleagues and loved ones in the parking lot of an Academy Sports store near the medical center. Law enforcement from multiple agencies responded.

The shooting occurred months after four people were shot dead at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hospital by a gunman who also killed himself. Police said the gunman in that shooting blamed the doctor, who was one of the four victims, for his continuing pain after a recent back operation and bought an AR-style rifle just hours before the rampage.

Experts said that shooting and other incidents highlight the vulnerabilities of health care facilities.

CHI St. Vincent North opened in 1999, and more than 200 physicians and staff work at the facility, according to the hospital's website.

CHI St. Vincent Chief Executive Officer Chad Aduddell said the hospital will debrief and review its security protocols following the incident. He praised police for their quick response to the shooting and the hospital's physicians and employees for their work during it.

“I can't express in words how brave they were," he said. “In the face of the unknown, they didn't yield, they were still there to take care of their patients, they didn't know what was going on but nonetheless were willing and ready to take care of their patients."