Vancouver man arrested after gun incident at medical building

SWAT team members surround Salmon Creek medical building

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: April 28, 2014, 4:21 PM

 
Report of man with gun

A man brought a rifle into a Salmon Creek medical building Monday morning, prompting heavy police response before he was detained by deputies with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement officers quickly converged on University Plaza, 14508 N.E. 20th Ave., around 10 a.m. after the man reportedly entered a mental health clinic in a third-floor suite, Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Duncan Hoss said. The three-story brick building is home to several different medical providers, including at least one dentist and a women’s health clinic.

Once inside the clinic, Associates for Psychiatric & Mental Health LLC., the man remained with a doctor while the rest of the employees evacuated.

Hoss said that it was initially unclear if the incident was a hostage situation or if the doctor remained in the office voluntarily, so police staged as if it was a hostage situation. Sheriff’s deputies and the interagency SWAT team surrounded the facility.

“If we don’t prepare for the worst, then the responders get hurt,” Hoss said. “As we’re getting set up, the doctor ends up coming out of the office and tells us that the subject was intent on having the police kill him.”

The man remained in the office while a crisis negotiator spoke with him from the hallway, Hoss said.

After about 30 minutes, the man, identified as Gregory Castro, 39, of Vancouver, agreed to surrender to a deputy. No shots were fired, and there was no injuries reported, although medics were summoned to stand by.

“(The crisis negotiator) ­talked him into coming out and giving up, and we had a successful resolution and nobody got hurt,” Hoss said.

There was no initial indication that the man had threatened to shoot anyone with his weapon.

Castro was booked into the Clark County Jail on suspicion of first-degree assault, theft of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm. Detectives are investigating whether Castro held the doctor as a hostage.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners William Dehen and Sheela Choppala-Nestor, the providers at the mental health clinic where the gun incident occurred, said the swift action of employees and clients in the office, as well as law enforcement, helped keep everyone safe.

“A gentleman with an unloaded weapon arrived at our offices shortly before 10 a.m. requesting to speak with one of our providers because he trusted that provider to clarify reality for him,” the practitioners wrote in a statement. “We cleared the building. The gentleman surrendered his weapon shortly after contact with the provider. … This rare type of event highlights the need for mental health care in our community at all levels.”

Fred Fox, a speech therapist who works in the building, said he was locked inside an office during the incident and said he remained somewhat calm.

“I knew there was a gunman in the building,” he said, adding he tried to not panic. He said he was grateful for the deputies who responded.

“Their response was great. They put their lives on the line and I respect that,” he said.

Kaiser Permanente’s busy Salmon Creek Medical Office, just south of University Plaza, was locked down for about an hour.

This was the third situation in Clark County this year in which someone brought a firearm to a workplace. On Feb. 3, employee Robert R. Brown brought a weapon to a Benjamin Moore Paints warehouse at 1800 W. Fourth Plain Blvd. in Vancouver and killed a supervisor and then himself.

The next day, a former Veterans Administration employee, whom authorities say was infatuated with a former supervisor, allegedly brought a gun to a VA office at the Center For Community Health, 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. in Vancouver, and shot the supervisor. Deborah A. Lennon was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder; her case is in the court system.


Reporters Justin Runquist and Patty Hastings contributed to this story.