Nursing Instructors Shot Dead by Failing Student

  1. <<Associated Press report

    TUCSON, Ariz. (Oct. 28) - A student flunking out of the University of Arizona nursing school shot three of his professors to death Monday, then killed himself as dozens of terrified students rushed to get away.

    Police said Robert Flores Jr., 41, specifically targeted the instructors, killing one in her office on the second floor and shooting the others in a fourth-floor classroom as students dove for cover.

    Flores walked to the front of the classroom and shot the first victim several times, then went to the back of the room and killed the second victim, police said.

    Senior Julie Raymond said she was taking an exam when the gunman came in.

    ''We just thought that he was late for the test,'' Raymond said. ''Then he started talking to instructors and fired shots. All of us ducked under the tables and then ran out of the room. At first, I thought it was a joke and realized it wasn't when I heard the shots.''

    Flores told students in the room to leave. He was later found dead by officers searching the school.

    University Vice Provost Elizabeth Irvin said Flores had failed a pediatric nursing class and was struggling in a critical care class.

    Bomb squad members were called in after a backpack or package was found underneath the gunman's body. The suspect had threatened to blow up the building, though it was unclear when the threat was made, police said. The college and nearby buildings were evacuated.

    More than six hours later, authorities were still checking for explosives.

    The victims - Robin Rogers, 50, Barbara Monroe, 45. and Cheryl McGaffic, 44 - all were Flores' instructors, Police Chief Richard Miranda said.

    ''It's too soon to say why he committed this terrible deed,'' Miranda said. ''We have determined that there are many issues in Mr. Flores' life, all of which are a factor.''

    Flores, a Gulf War veteran, worked at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System as a licensed practical nurse, and was studying to become a registered nurse, officials said. It wasn't clear in which branch of the military he served.

    Anu Nigam, a 29-year-old graduate student, said she and her husband were outside waiting for a shuttle bus when a woman came out of the building with a cell phone, trying to dial and screaming that there was a man with a gun in the building. Police were at the scene within seconds.

    ''A group of people were crying and running desperately to get out of the building,'' Nigam said. ''They were crying, tripping over one another, falling down.''

    Student Lori Schenkel said she had several classes with Flores and he told classmates about a year ago that he had gotten a concealed weapon permit.

    ''He was just a very aggravated student, a rude, obnoxious type of person,'' she said. ''He came across as very aggressive and mean, and seemed to have a lot of issues with being angry.''

    Nurse William Gordon, who worked with Flores at the VA hospital and knew him for three years, said he saw nothing that would foreshadow violence. He said Flores dropped out of a nursing ethics class last semester and seemed upset, but it wasn't an unusual reaction.

    ''I didn't pick up anything majorly confrontational with him regarding the instructor,'' Gordon said. ''Nothing that would alarm you.''

    Students were grieving the loss of their professors.

    Rogers, who taught pediatrics, was a ''really great teacher,'' Ilda Rosano said. ''She always has her door open. If you need to see her, you just walk right in.''

    McGaffic taught classes on health care ethics, critical care and death and dying. She was also a volunteer chaplain at University Medical Center, where she helped comfort seriously ill patients and their families.

    Jessica Odom, a 21-year-old student, recalled the one-on-one interactions McGaffic had with students in the death and dying course.

    ''We had a memorial for all our loved ones that died, and she sat and cried with us all as we talked about our loved ones,'' Odom said.

    University President Peter Likins said there were no immediate plans to change security procedures at the 34,000-student university, which includes the 380-student nursing school.

    Flores lived in an apartment complex a few miles from campus where many other students live. Complex manager Joe Brink said Flores had been there for more than a year and was ''a model tenant.''

    Brink said Flores had two children who visited during the summer. Classmates said Flores talked of an ex-wife and two children.

    AP-NY-10-28-02 2108EST>>>>
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  2. 27 Comments

  3. by   mario_ragucci
    What? That is nuts? Aggressive types in nursing school? This is nuts!
  4. by   oramar
    I am repeating myself. When we were going through downsizing and reorginizing at my little hospital many people with 20 or 30 years were left go. A couple of them were paranoid and aggitated and angry. A few of those were gun owners and or had military experience. We are talking about a very small number of persons but I sort of worried about what they might do and wondered if admistration ever worried what they might do. It was a time of great upheaval in many hospitals. I said to myself if someone here does not go postal here it will be at another hospital. I never dreamed that it would happen in a nursing school. It is horrible and I feel very tramatized. So I can imagine how the persons who witnessed it feel. I don't want to turn on news knowing that every time I do there might be a report of another rampage. How many more times can we get on the boards and say how sorry we are for the victims and their survivors?
  5. by   tattooednursie
    I have failed a test before, and I was just devistated. I felt angry at anything and everything, but never ould I let it go to that extent. EVER! Those women did not deserve to die. they were jsut doing their jobs!

    Personally, I thought the guilt trip by crying infront of the instructors made them feel bad enough killing them is not the way to go about it!
  6. by   legsmalone
    My clinical group discussed this today, we all agreed that the wrong person, the stress of nursing school could push someone over the edge. My deepest sympathies go out to the familes of all the victims, this is a sad day indeed.
  7. by   jayna
    OMG
  8. by   sjoe
    One more good reason to stop watching and reading the "news." It tends to poison one's mind about what other people are like. The Wall Street Journal and Business Week don't glorify and wallow in the gore and violence, and I recommend reading them instead of television and local newspapers.

    Oh, and by the way, regarding your stereotypes: I am a gun owner, military veteran, and I used to work in the post office. When the post office shootings began a few years after I left, I was not at all surprised.

    Nor am I surprised at the nursing or any other school shootings, except that it is not more frequent. Think back to the widespread abuse of power on the part of some of your nursing instructors, not to mention those in high school. This guy just had enough--on top of his other stresses and problems. (If he hadn't gotten hold of firearms, he'd probably have used a bomb, or run his car into a crowd of them, causing even more destruction.)

    A couple thoughts:

    Maybe "stress and anger management" could be one of the first courses in nursing school, rather than one of the last ones. Maybe it would make no difference.

    Maybe nursing schools would be wise to be aware that the students are their customers, the ones paying the bucks, the ones to whom they have agreed to provide a service, rather than being interchangeable and disposable bits of raw material to be beaten into shape.
    Last edit by sjoe on Oct 30, '02
  9. by   oramar
    My husband is a veteran with hunting rifles in the house. Is he going to pick one up and shoot someone. Of course not! Of the two hundred persons who were let go during the first week of layoffs one forth owned guns, one forth were vets. There were three of that group who were obviously paranoid with a tendency to be beligerent. They were the ones that scared me. Each had talked about disrupted childhoods with a lot of foster homes. They were angry a lot and known to be bullies. Guess what, nothing happened. However, you can go through any group of people and pick out a few like this. This is the group from which the sporadic violence will occur most of the time. That does not mean that everyone with these characteristics will resort to violence. It does not mean that someone that does not have these characteristics will not resort to violence. What I am saying you can see it coming if you really want to. You can made an educated guess as to who it will be if you don't have your head in the sand.
  10. by   rosy
    Sadly, I've been in the situation of flunking out of nursing school. If this man got as little understanding and support as I did when it happened to me, I can understand how the wrong person could snap. Nursing school is tough, (now there's a news flash) and I don't think the public has a clue of how tough, nor do I think many instructor are wonderful to everyone. I was told in my senior year of a BSN program, by an instructor, that I didn't have what it takes to be a nurse, and recieved no supprot from faculity from that point on. The year before I had voluntarily repeated a class and up to that time had not failed any classes. It was a devestating time in my life, and I know my situation was not unique. I have seen similiar senerios at numerous nursing schools in my 25 year career (no I did not graduate from that BSN program). Obviously I don't mean excuse this man in anyway merely empathize with him a little.
    We all recognize that nurses eat their young, but I think many of us are pretty chewed up before we ever reach the job market
    Last edit by rosy on Oct 30, '02
  11. by   colleen10
    Nor am I surprised at the nursing or any other school shootings, except that it is not more frequent.
    - Sjoe

    We all recognize that nurses eat their young, but I think many of us are pretty chewed up before we ever reach the job market
    - Rosy


    Both very good points. Especially Rosy's, quite profound.

    Oramar made me think back to last year when my company was laying people off by the dozens every day. I actually had planned out an escape route should someone come into the office and start shooting. And I even had a terrible nightmare months ago that I was in a hospital doing clinicals for school and some mad man came through and was shooting the place up.

    Sad we live in a world like that. But, I am always amused by the people that say they just don't understand how it could happen. I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.
  12. by   Q.
    To me, life is tough all around. Believe it or not, there are far more rigorous programs out there besides nursing. Also, there is far more stress in life than simply taking college courses, which you choose to take, or even flunking them. I am not dismissing the stress of that situation, but by god, let's keep our perspective here. Failing college classes, when you already are a working professional? (an LPN). Come on. Battling a fatal disease, slowly losing your independence and bodily functions, or watching your child die...now THAT is stress. Nursing school is a tough program yes, but certainly not worth killling yourself over.

    To me, this publicity of the Nursing School shootings will onlly help to make our profession look even more disillusioned.
  13. by   MK2002
    As expected, the story continues to develop. The shooter carefully planned the event. He had written a 22-page letter in advance and mailed it to a local newspaper. This person did not want to accept responsibility for his own actions. It is such a tragedy that he had to take the lives of others to justify his own failure.

    http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/Southwest....ap/index.html
  14. by   adrienurse
    I was sad to hear that one of the slain Profs was friends with the Dean of our Faculty of Nursing at my University. She had done her Doctoral studies at The U of Arizona with him. He described her as a brilliant clinician, researcher and educator.

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