ATLANTA — Police arrested a man Wednesday for allegedly starting a fire inside the waiting room of an Atlanta medical practice that killed one woman and injured four. Workers and others took shelter in the crowded business district for hours during the drive.
Authorities cordoned off the city’s Midtown neighborhood shortly after noon in search of the shooter. Police said in a statement that the suspect, whom they identified as 24-year-old Deion Patterson, was apprehended in Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta.
Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. declined to discuss any details of the investigation or possible motive, saying, “Why he did what he did is all still under investigation.”
Law enforcement officials said at a news conference Wednesday night that Patterson had made an appointment at the Northside Medical Building and opened fire shortly after arriving in an attack that lasted about two minutes. Authorities said Patterson then went to a Shell gas station and took a pickup truck, which was running and unattended.
News of the shooting prompted workers and lunch hour marches in the neighborhood, which is filled with office towers and high-rise apartments.
Atlanta Police Chief Darrin Shirbaum said a 39-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office identified her as Amy St. Pierre.
The four injured women — ages 25, 39, 56 and 71 — remained in serious but stable condition Wednesday night, according to Deputy Chief Hampton. Their names were not immediately released.
The shooting comes at a time when gun violence and mass shootings have been reported in 2023 in cities around the US.
Patterson’s mother, Minyon Patterson, whom police said went to the medical office with her son, told The Associated Press by phone that her son, a former Coast Guard, was having “some mental instability” from the drug. Which he started taking on Friday.
She said her son wanted Ativan to deal with anxiety and depression but the Veterans Affairs Health System would not give it to him because they said it would be “too addictive.” She is a nurse and she said that she told them that she would only take the proper dosage.
“Those families, those families,” she said, starting to sob. “They’re hurting because they won’t give my son his damn Ativan. Those families lost loved ones because they were mentally broken because they didn’t listen to me.
He disconnected the call without telling what medicine his son was taking.
“We are horrified and saddened to hear about the active shooter situation in Atlanta today,” Veterans Affairs press secretary Terrence Hayes said in an emailed statement. “Due to patient confidentiality, we cannot discuss a Veteran’s personal information without written consent.”
The US Coast Guard said in a statement that Patterson had joined the service in 2018 and was discharged from active duty in January. He was an electrician’s mate second class at the time.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens applauded the fact that Patterson was arrested and taken into custody alive so that he could stand trial.
“For now, we have made a successful end to a painful day,” Dickens said, while advocating for stricter gun laws and stressing the importance of police training.
“I hope the city, the region is resting comfortably that he is in custody, but I also hope that we are vigilant to look to a future where individuals who should not have guns, will not have guns, And also that individuals are brought to justice, and also that we deal with these things that are mental health or easy access to guns,” Dickens said.
Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement that he was “heartbroken” by the shooting and prayed for the victims.
Cobb County Police Chief Stuart Van Hoozer said technology played a huge role in finding the suspect, along with cameras from the Department of Transportation and members of the community calling in with information.
“Those tools really got us the clues we needed to make this a success — and people are getting those clues,” Vanhoozer said.
The pickup truck was found in a parking garage near the stadium where the Atlanta Braves play. Video broadcast by WSB-TV showed Patterson being arrested near a tennis court and swimming pool at a nearby condominium complex.
At the time of the shooting, Cassidy Hale, a medical device representative, said she was driving to check a machine in the building’s outpatient surgery center.
Hale saw the firetrucks but didn’t realize anything was wrong until he parked and found the lift was not working. Hale said she called the operating room manager, who told her there was an active shooter and that she should return to her car.
Hale said police stopped him from leaving the parking garage and later searched each car and pulled them out for interviews.
She gathered with other staff and patients in a building across the street, where she said “everyone was really in shock” and “trying to process what was going on.”
Immediately after the shooting, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia took to the Senate to urge his colleagues to reduce gun violence and advance gun reform.
The Democrat said, “There have been so many mass shootings … that, sadly, we treat it like it’s routine.” “We behave like it’s normal. It’s not normal.
The Atlanta pastor said: “I shudder to say this, but the truth is that in a real sense, it is only a matter of time that a tragedy like this comes knocking at your door.”
Jon Ossoff of Georgia, also a Democrat, echoed his colleague in a statement: “The level of gun violence in America today is unconscionable and unacceptable, and policymakers at all levels have a responsibility to protect public safety.” Make sure and implement long overdue improvements.