A St. Patrick Hospital nurse sat alone at her desk in the cardiac unit when a single gunshot boomed from Room 434 across the hall.
According to the coroner’s report, 81-year-old Glen Hauerwas, a patient at the hospital, shot himself in the head with a handgun on the evening of On Saturday, Jan. 12. The nurse burst into the room and immediately set an emergency response into action, but hospital staff could not revive the man, and he died from the wound.
The coroner’s report says that Hauerwas' wife, Lois, left his room to smoke a cigarette just minutes before he died. She told investigators that Hauerwas commonly traveled with a pistol, and could have brought it with him when he checked into the hospital.
The tragically violent death prompted St. Pat’s and local law enforcement officials to reveal as little as possible about the incident, even though it raises potential concerns about public safety.
When the Independent tried to confirm the shooting, Missoula County Sheriff Mike McMeekin initially refused to release the public coroner’s report. Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Hintz finally provided the document, but only after a specific request for the report was made by referring to its unique serial number.
Lara Shadwick, director of marketing and public relations for St. Pat’s, would neither discuss the hospital’s response to the shooting, nor even confirm the existence of a firearm within the hospital, declining to comment on the incident because of concern over the victim’s privacy rights.
“There is a policy in place for situations like this,” she says. “There wasn’t a breakdown in the policy.” However, Shadwick refused to reveal any details of the policy, citing of all things, hospital policy.
Shadwick acknowledged the difficulty the hospital has in balancing safety concerns with patient privacy and confidentiality.
“This is a free society,” she says. “It’s not our policy to search a person unless they’re in danger of harming themselves or others.”