Under the Knife

Even legislation can't end violence in Valley hospitals

Holding the gun directly in front of her with both hands, the heavy-set, gray-haired patient fired a shot at an ambulance driver named Douglas Proce from 10 feet away. The bullet entered the right side of his abdomen, ripping out a chunk of his small intestine and part of his colon. Proce and the nurse in charge of Dooley's care, Andy Salonic, ran for cover inside the linen area behind the nurses' station.

As Proce crawled about the floor, trying to regain his footing, Salonic saw Dooley slowly walking around the nurses' station while deliberately firing the gun. "She was very focused and intent on what she was doing," he later told police.

Salonic ran down the hall into room 512 where another one of his patients stood in the doorway with an IV attached to his arm. The nurse detached the IV and pulled the patient into the bathroom, at which point he realized he had been shot in the back.

Prior to the shootings, Jean Dooley had been under psychiatric care and had been prescribed Librium. Then, in the days leading up to the shootings, Dooley heard voices and experienced paranoid delusions that her husband was trying to kill her.

Just after the shooting, she was overheard saying to her husband, while security officers restrained her in a chair, "I know I got you, I was aiming for you. I want to kill you. If I killed two people, I don't care if I killed two people, I'll take an insanity plea."

Which is exactly what Dooley did. Nearly two years after the shootings, charges against Dooley for attempted murder and aggravated assault were dropped. Dooley claimed her actions were guided by heavy doses of painkillers prescribed by her doctor. Indeed, between her surgery on February 10 and the shooting three days later, she had been given cocktails of morphine, Demerol and Percocet. Four hours prior to the shooting, she was administered 75 milligrams of Demerol.

Her defense attorney, Jeffrey Ross, said the drugs knocked Dooley off the deep end, making her temporarily insane. Prosecutor Jim Rizer argued that she knew what she was doing, which was to kill her husband.

Since Dooley had been "involuntarily intoxicated," meaning she had taken prescription medicine according to her doctor's orders, the prosecutor's case didn't hold up. And the felony law, which exempts those who are "mentally impaired," failed to protect the two health-care workers who suffered serious injuries as a result of the shootings.

Bill FitzGerald, a spokesperson for the County Attorney's Office, says, "We felt that we prosecuted that case successfully, but the decision on retrial was the jurors felt that the medication she was under could have caused her to act the way she did. Each case rises and falls under its own set of circumstances. It's hard to prosecute all cases under the law that was written.

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