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Pharmacy worker executes managers

INVESTIGATORS were trying to figure out yesterday why a hospital pharmacy worker known for being quick with a joke and a smile brought a gun to work and deliberately killed two of his managers before killing himself.

Police said Mario Ramirez, 50, showed up at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, in the US state of California, on Thursday and shot Hugo Bustamante and Kelly Hales before turning shooting himself.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as gunshots rang out just before noon, with panicked people running from the building and doctors ushering scared patients into rooms.

"When I got off the elevator, I heard screams," said hospital employee Edward Collins. An upset friend told him she had just seen someone she knew shoot someone. Collins then saw the shooter holding what appeared to be a black handgun. "He was standing over the guy he shot," he said.

Collins said the gunman eventually pointed the gun at his own head and fired.

Laura Harris, 64, said she saw that second shooting as she drove by the emergency entrance. She said the gunman shot Hales in the leg and, after he fell to the ground, "stood over him and shot him again."

She said Ramirez then put the gun to his own head but appeared to be wavering, pacing and appearing frustrated.

"I don't know if he tried to shoot or if he was making up his mind," Harris said. "Then he put it to his head" and pulled the trigger, she said.

There was no immediate indication of why Ramirez, a technician at the outpatient pharmacy, killed Bustamante and Hales. Hospital spokeswoman Stacie Crompton-Hime said the 46-year-old Bustamante was the pharmacy's manager and the 56-year-old Hales was its executive director.

When asked if the shooting may have stemmed from a dispute or possible layoffs at the hospital, Crompton-Hime said there were layoffs last month but no other reductions were planned.

Police Chief Anthony Batts said the motive remained under investigation, but noted it came amid a flurry of shootings in the United States.

"This is a trend of active shooters that you have seen nationwide," Batts said. "This is becoming a national trend probably because of the tension that's going on in our society today."

Ramirez's wife, Lydia, broke the news to their two sons Thursday night, said her sister, Eva Reyes. She declined further comment.

Ramirez's oldest son, Aaron, 14, sat on the front steps of their home in Alhambra in the dark and hid his tears in the hood of a green sweat shirt.

He asked a TV cameraman what happened to his dad. The teen said his mother told him that his father had died, but he didn't know the details.

The boy said he came outside because he couldn't stand to see his mother and younger brother crying.


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