Methodist Dallas official: Criminal history of NICU parents 'not something we normally inquire about'

After the Oct. 22 shooting deaths of two employees at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, a suspect charged in the incident reportedly reloaded his handgun and started to leave a room at the hospital, then engaged in a standoff with police before being taken into custody, according to a statement from the Dallas Police Department.

Nestor Hernandez, 30, who is on parole for aggravated robbery and had an active ankle monitor, arrived at the hospital about 10:21 a.m. to see a patient in labor and delivery, police said.

While at the hospital, Mr. Hernandez pulled a handgun and repeatedly hit the patient, who media outlets have reported to be his girlfriend, police said. He was allowed to be at the hospital because his girlfriend had given birth to their child, The Dallas Morning News reported Oct. 24, citing information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

A hospital employee, Jaqueline Pokuaa, 45, came into the room and was attending to the patient when Mr. Hernandez stood up, moved to the employee, and shot her once, police said.

Methodist Health System Sgt. Robert Rangel "was just a few doors down investigating a stolen property call when he and hospital staff heard what appeared to be a gunshot in a nearby room," police said. "Another hospital employee, Katie Flowers, 63, heard the shot fired and looked into the room, and the suspect fired again from the doorway, hitting [Ms.] Flowers in the hallway."

Police said Sgt. Rangel saw Ms. Flowers being shot, "took cover, and called for help on his radio. The investigation shows Hernandez reportedly reloaded his weapon and started to leave the room, still armed with his gun. Sgt. Rangel fired one shot from his department-issued weapon and hit the suspect in his leg. Hernandez went back into the room after being shot, and after a standoff with police, he was taken into custody."

Ms. Pokuaa and Ms. Flowers, identified as a nurse and caseworker, died from their injuries, according to The Dallas Morning News. According to authorities, Mr. Hernandez's girlfriend was treated for her injuries, and the newborn child was in the room at the time of the incident but was not injured.  

Glen Fowler, Methodist Health System's police chief, said police were not warned that Mr. Hernandez would be at the hospital, according to The Dallas Morning News.

"Anything about his criminal history, that's not something that we normally inquire about for a parent in our NICU or mother-baby units," he said, according to the newspaper. "This is an extremely horrific, out-of-the-norm situation, and I wish that we would've known — but that is not some information that was provided to us beforehand." Mr. Fowler also said there would be a "drastically enhanced police and security presence" at the hospital, especially in more public areas like labor and delivery, according to the newspaper.

An Oct. 22 statement from Methodist Health System executive leadership reads, "The Methodist Health System Family is heartbroken at the loss of two of our beloved team members. Our entire organization is grieving this unimaginable tragedy. During this devastating time, we want to ensure our patients, physicians, employees and community that Methodist Dallas Medical Center is safe, and there is no ongoing threat. Our prayers are with our lost co-workers and their families, as well as our entire Methodist family. We appreciate the community's support during this difficult time."

Mr. Hernandez, who was treated at Methodist Hospital and later transferred to another local hospital for more treatment, was charged with capital murder. 

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