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AG: Man shot mother dead in hospital ICU, faces first-degree murder charge

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 13. 2017 11:50AM
The active-shooter alert at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon forced authorities to issue evacuation and shelter-in-place orders Tuesday afternoon. (Jeffrey Hastings)

A Ford Escape with Rhode Island plates sits surrounded by police tape at Lahaye Drive and Mt. Support Road after a fatal shooting at nearby Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon Tuesday afternoon. Travis Frink of Warwick, R.I., was arrested; police said he shot his mother in the hospital's intensive care unit. (Deborah Scranton Photo)

LEBANON — A 70-year-old intensive care patient was shot dead by her son at a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center intensive care unit on Tuesday afternoon, leading to a massive police response and the arrest of the suspected gunman.

Travis Frink, 48, of Warwick, R.I., was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Pamela Ferriere of Groton, at about 8 p.m. Tuesday, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said Tuesday night. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill.

MacDonald said Frink signed the visitor log and went to the ICU Four-South, where he fired more than one shot.

"The purpose of Mr. Frink's visit was to kill his mother," MacDonald said, citing the investigation.

Authorities said police from Lebanon and Canaan took Frink into custody about an hour after the shooting. Officers could be seen searching a grey Ford Escape, which was driven by the shooter.




TRAVIS FRINK

No one else was injured, something Dartmouth-Hitchcock President Joanne Conroy attributed to active-shooter training the hospital performs.

"Today, people did exactly what we instructed them to do," Conroy said.

Police were first called to the Intensive Care Unit on the fourth level of the hospital's North building shortly before 1:30 p.m. Witnesses reported hearing "Code Silver" and seeing heavily armed officers streaming into the building, going door-to-door to evacuate staff and patients, some in wheelchairs. 

"Usually they'll say 'This is a drill.' That never came," said Emily Weyburne, a postdoctoral researcher at the facility. 

Employees and patients were evacuated from the sprawling hospital campus. Police pushed them back several times. Some were bused to nearby facilities. Local schools were placed on lockdown.

Manuel Bermudez, a surgical technician, said the first indicator of trouble was a "Code Silver" alert over the intercom.

"The [patients] that could be wheeled out were wheeled out," he said. "Older, immobile patients in wheelchairs were moved to the shade."

The hospital bused many patients.

"It was a pretty calm evacuation," Bermudez said. "Some people were panicked, for others it was an orderly evacuation."

The urgency of the evacuation was spelled out in an email to staff Tuesday afternoon. Dartmouth-Hitchcock said an active shooter was likely still in the medical center, but was "contained."

The alert said police were searching for a male, 6 foot 1 inch, with salt-and-pepper blonde hair, wearing a red camouflage shirt and carrying a camouflage backpack.

MacDonald gave no reason for the shooting, but he said state police want to hear from anyone who has information about the whereabouts of Frink leading up to Tuesday's shooting. People with information should call New Hampshire State Police detective Brian Strong at 223-8568.

Police closed off the main entrance road to the hospital while letting in emergency response vehicles from Vermont State Police and nearby communities — including a police Bearcat from Keene — into the campus.

"These are the most challenging times for first responders, to mitigate these situations," said state police Col. Christopher Wagner.

Just inside the entrance road, police milled around cruisers. Hospital workers waited for a chance to return.

State Police and town police manned U-turn crossovers on Interstate 89 between Hopkinton and Hanover.

Hours after the shooter was in custody, police were still working at the hospital to clear areas and process the crime scene, said John Kacavas, the chief legal counsel for the hospital.

Tim Ball, business administrator for Lebanon's public schools, said the district placed all five of its schools on lockdown as a precaution. Lebanon High School and Hanover Street Elementary School are about two miles from the hospital.

Groveton resident Lora Charbonneau watched the traffic from the corner at Lahaye Drive and Mt. Support Road, where police set up a checkpoint to keep all out except first responders. Her husband, Tim, a Lancaster police sergeant, was directing traffic away from the entrance road.

They were visiting his mother at the hospital when the emergency unfolded and he was pressed into duty.

"I just want to lay eyes on my mother-in-law and know she's OK," said Lorna Charbonneau. She had spoken with relatives "sheltering in place" in her mother-in-law's room and they reported being fine.

Deborah Scranton, a filmmaker from Goshen, said she had just arrived at the hospital for an appointment and was coming in from the parking garage when she saw crowds of people headed in the opposite direction.

Scranton ran back to her car and got it out of the garage, but said the campus had already been locked down and she waited out the tense moments, piecing together what she heard from others and someone with a police scanner. 

"They had evacuated us which of course makes sense, but then we heard he was out," she said. "People were running through the campus. It was calm, it was OK, but it was disconcerting to say the least." 

Scranton said she was able to leave around 4 p.m. and credited Dartmouth-Hitchcock and law enforcement for keeping people calm in a frightening situation.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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