A police confrontation during a busy Friday morning left a Brigham and Women’s Hospital valet attendant in critical condition, a suspected gunman dead, and a medical staff shaken by the violence that took them back five years — to when another shooter killed one of their own.
The suspect, a Mattapan man with a history of mental illness, died after a violent encounter with police near a Star Market on Route 9 in Brookline. The valet was in stable condition.
“I literally thought I was going to see a person die," said Justin Heitmann, a New Hampshire man who was at the hospital for a doctor’s appointment.
From his third-floor vantage point at the hospital’s arthritis center, Heitmann captured video of the injured suspect hobbling toward his car near the corner of Fenwood Road and Vining Street. His driver’s door was open and pursuing police shouted for him to drop his weapon.
“I thought, ‘This guy is dead. They are going to blow him away right here,' " he said.
Instead, the suspect, later identified as Juston Root, 41, of Mattapan, drove off, leading police on a nearly four-mile chase that would end in gunfire and his death.
At an afternoon news conference, Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long said that many questions remained unanswered. He did not identify the suspect, whom police shot and killed when the car chase came to an end near the Star Market shopping strip on Route 9 near the border between Newton and Brookline. More than one officer, including a state trooper, fired their weapons, Long said.
A 911 call reporting a person with a gun brought police to the hospital at 9:21 a.m., he said.
“The suspect pulled out and pointed directly at the responding officers what appeared to be a firearm,” Long said. Police said it was still under investigation whether he fired a weapon.
Officers then fired at the suspect, police said. The man then assaulted an officer near the hospital and limped to his car to make his getaway.
Long said that he did not know why the suspect was at the hospital. Authorities did not say whether the suspect and the valet knew each other.
The 49-year-old valet, whom police did not identify, was in stable condition Friday, police said.
While crossing the street to get his to car after an EKG appointment, Luiz Aragaki, 71, of Brookline, said he heard something that sounded "like an explosion.”
He looked back and saw a man wearing a valet’s red coat and black pants trembling on the ground in the crosswalk, holding his hands over his ears.
Aragaki was confused. He saw no blood.
“It looked like he was kidding,”Aragaki said.
By about 10 a.m., police had blocked Francis Street and wouldn’t let anyone in or out of the hospital’s front doors. Police cars with blue lights flashing blocked the sidewalk and roadways on both sides. Yellow police tape ran alongside the main entry to the hospital, where patients drop off their cars for valet attendants.
Hospital employees and patients had sheltered in place after alerts announcing an “active shooter” went out over the public address system and popped up on their computer screens.
Jovanna Silva was waiting to get her blood drawn. Nurses ushered Silva, her husband, and other patients into another room. They locked the doors and turned off the lights.
Sarah Tibbetts, who came to Boston from her home in Maine to see a specialist on Friday, was similarly locked inside an examination room for several minutes, and then taken out a back entry. She never heard shots, she said, only sirens.
In telephone interviews Friday night, Root’s father and mother said their son had a history of mental illness.
His father, Evan Root, said during the last conversation with his son on Thursday morning, he seemed “very grounded,” but added that he “could change in a day.”
“May he rest in peace,” he said. “What else can I say?”
A December court filing in the Suffolk Probate and Family Court indicated the Juston Root was at that time “refusing all antipsychotic medications.” Root, the filing said, “continues to be unable to make informed decisions regarding his treatment with antipsychotic medications.”
In 2012 when the state’s Department of Mental Health went into that court to ask a judge to appoint a permanent guardian who could make medical decisions for him, Juston Root’s mother, Barbara Root, wrote “He has never committed a violent act toward anyone.”
“Juston is highly intelligent, can be delusional if off meds, but he is not off meds,” she said in a filing.
The shooting came five years after a Millbury man stormed into Brigham and shot and killed Dr. Michael J. Davidson. That incident traumatized the hospital community and echoed loudly as the alerts sounded on Friday morning.
One longtime nurse, who declined to give his name, said he was in a procedure room when the alerts went out. He said his mind went immediately to the incident five years ago.
“Of course. Of course, it did,” he said. “But my thinking is: People get guns. The rest of us get active shooters. It needs to be said. It’s the truth. It’s not the hospital, it’s guns.”
At a noon meeting for hospital staff, supervisors addressed the past traumas and offered assurances, support, and services.
“These things are really shaking for us,” said Ron Walls, the hospital’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “This is not the first thing like this we’ve been through.”
Walls encouraged staff to take good care of themselves and each other, and to know that the hospital community is there for them.
“It’s normal to feel frightened; it’s normal to feel vulnerable. It’s normal to wonder, ‘Gee, what’s going to happen next,’ ” he said.
In Brookline, witnesses said the suspect’s car came to a stop near a shopping area on Boylston Street after crashing into other cars, with police cruisers in pursuit.
Hannah Riordan, manager at a nail salon in the strip mall near the shooting, said she watched the man exit his car and run through the Star Market lot to evade police.
After the suspect ran, police officers shouted for him to drop his weapon. An officer pulled out his gun and took aim. Gunshots followed, she said.
“It sounded like the Fourth of July,’’ Anitra Lacy said. “He just dropped.”
The suspect was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Several Boston police officers also were taken to a hospital for evaluations and were released.
Mike Bello and Felice Freyer of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Matt Berg and Caroline Enos contributed to this report.
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