Assisted living home worker fired after being shot on the job

Assisted living home worker fired after being shot on the job »Play Video
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- For his 38 years on the job, Roger Holbrook has stuffed the highlights into a box no bigger than a hardcover book.

He flips through the cards inside. "Roger, you are such a miracle," reads one. "Good people shouldn't have to feel bad," says another.

"That's enough tears for now," he quips, pushing the box aside.

It's been three and a half months since Holbrook survived the physical trauma of being shot on the job; emotional wounds, however, have been another story.

Holbrook, an administrator at the Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood was shot by a resident there on February 4. One bullet grazed his arm; a second is still lodged in his back.

The shooter, 87-year old Arthur Hames, told police he was bullied by Holbrook at the nursing home and so he turned to a pistol to seek justice.

"He just walked in, in a very pleasant voice, and said, 'I have something for you,'" recalled Holbrook Wednesday night. "And then when I looked up he had a pistol in his hand. Almost immediately after he said that he started shooting."

"The first bullet grazed me right here," Holbrook said, pointing to his right arm, "and the second bullet hit me in the side."

Holbrook, an Army nurse for 20 years, said instinct kicked in and he wrestled the gun out of the shooter's hand.

"He lost his balance and went to the floor. It was pretty loud and so staff approached. I directed staff to care for him and to call 911," Holbrook said. "Then I looked down and saw I was shot. I didn't even know I was shot until that point."

Holbrook was flown to Harborview Medical Center, but released late the same night. Surviving the shooting, however, hasn't been his toughest battle to date.

After the incident, the state Department of Social and Health Services did an investigation. Inspectors wrote that Hames, the gunman, was upset about an incident three days prior to the shooting and had warned a nurse he "thought (Holbrook) should be killed" as a result and "mentioned using a gun or his car."

While Holbrook faxed Hames' doctor about the threat that day, the state felt Holbrook and other staff "fail(ed) to take immediate actions ... Plac(ing) all resident(s) at risk of harm."

As a results of the investigation, Holbrook says he was fired from his job - first via email and later in writing. Several months later, still unemployed, he believes the state's assessment of the situation is unfair.

"If every time somebody made an angry statement in a unit that has a lot of people with dementia, I'd have 911 there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Holbrook said. "In my opinion, the state inspection turned the facts around."

Administrators at the Josephine Sunset home did not return calls for comment. A DSHS spokeswoman did not return a call seeking additional information.

Holbrook has been looking for jobs - both in the nursing industry and in other careers. His unemployment claim was denied, but he's appealed.

On top of this, he may never find answers in his case. The shooter died a few weeks after being put behind bars.

"I never, never held this against him," Holbrook said. "The one thing I the very next day is I went in and told his wife that I hoped she would be fine."

"And I forgave him," he said.