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Suspect Charged in Fatal Ga. Hospital Shootings

March 28, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ga. _ Charles Johnston, the suspect in Doctors Hospital shooting, has been released from The Medical Center and charged with multiple offenses, including three counts of murder and four counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer.

Police said Johnston entered the hospital Thursday afternoon, armed with three guns, and shot and killed two hospital employees and a truck driver in the parking lot, before a Columbus police officer shot him in the upper shoulder. Johnston was treated for his injuries, then released into police custody on Friday.

He is scheduled to appear in Columbus Recorder’s Court at 2 p.m. Monday for the following charges:

_Murder for the shooting of James David Baker in the head with an unknown type handgun.

_Murder for the shooting of Pete Wright in the chest and back with an unknown type handgun.

_Murder for the shooting of Leslie Harris in the head and chest with an unknown type handgun.

_Four counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer for shooting at Columbus police Cpl. Michael Dahnke, Officer Jonathan Goodrich, Officer Gregory Anderson and Muscogee County Deputy Marshal Alicia Davenport.

_Aggravated Assault for pointing a handgun at Sherry Wilkerson.

_Possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime for having three guns in his possession during the crime.

During a Friday press conference, Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren said Johnston entered the hospital earlier that day, looking for someone named “Pete,” who had treated his mother at the hospital before she died in 2004.

He could not find him that morning, but returned around 2 p.m., armed with three handguns and extra ammunition, Boren said. One weapon was concealed in a jacket pocket, one in a pants pocket, and another tucked into his waistband.

Wright, a critical care nurse from Fortson Ga., who had worked at the hospital for 11 years, was the first victim.

Boren said when Johnston came to the hospital the second time, he exchanged words with Wright, asking if he remembered him. Johnston followed Wright into an empty room on the hospital’s fifth floor. When Wright attempted to leave the room, Johnston shot him, Boren said.

Wright was taken to surgery where he later died. He was 44.

Harris, an administrative assistant at the hospital, was shot after he tried to stop Johnston from leaving at the elevator. The 44-year-old from LaGrange, Ga., died at the hospital at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower said.

Johnston left the hospital through the emergency room doors and entered the parking lot, where he shot Baker, Boren said. Baker, a truck driver from Columbus, died in surgery at The Medical Center. He was 76.

Boren said officers received a 911 call in reference to the shooting a little after 2 p.m., requesting that all available units respond. Davenport, a deputy with the marshal’s office, was the first to respond at 2:13 p.m.

Johnston, now in a tan Ford stationwagon, was stopped by Davenport, who commanded him to show his hands, Boren said. The suspect pointed a gun at her and fired. Davenport returned fire, and at least two bullets hit the station wagon’s driver’s side door.

Marshal Greg Countryman said Davenport fired three shots, none of which hit Johnston. Davenport was also unscathed.

Boren said Johnston was then blocked in place by an unmarked Columbus police unit. Johnston fired shots at three Columbus officers in the parking lot _ Dahnke, Goodrich and Anderson.

Dahnke returned fire twice, wounding Johnston in the shoulder, Boren said. Goodrich and Anderson did not fire shots.

Dahnke has been at the Columbus Police Department since Jan. 10, 2000; Goodrich since Dec. 6, 2004; and Anderson since July 23, 2007.

The police officers and the deputy marshal have all been placed on administrative assignment with pay and will receive counseling.

Countryman credited Davenport’s quick response to the scene for keeping the gunman isolated to the hospital grounds. He said Davenport seemed to be coping well when she left the marshal’s office Thursday night.

“This is a major incident for her and we are going to recommend based on our policy that she seeks counseling,” Countryman said. “This is something that she’s going to have to deal with for the rest of her life.”

Based on his own experience, he guessed the trauma hadn’t yet kicked in.

“A man unloaded a gun on me,” Countryman recalled. “Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Two or three days later, your body aches. It was a bad situation, but it could have been worse.”

Marion Scott, a spokesperson for Columbus Regional, said all employees affected by the incident will undergo counseling and a memorial service will be planned at a later date.

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(c) 2008, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.).

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