Police and Courts
4:31 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Possible Armed Suspect Near Commerce Hospital

COMMERCE - UPDATE 3:49 pm – Lisa Hill, director of development and communications for Hunt Regional Healthcare, tells us the facilities director who reported the alleged gunman “walked right by him” as the man sat on a bench outside the Commerce hospital’s front entrance.

Hill tells KETR that Hunt Regional Hospital’s facilities director had observed the man sitting outside for some time. When he went to check on him he noticed the gun sitting next to him, said “hello” and continued to walk by. Police were then immediately notified.

Hill adds that Hunt Regional Hospital was “prepared to handle” the situation, noting they are trained in situations such as these of when and how to lockdown the facility and move all patients and staff away from open areas and windows.

Authorities have yet to locate the suspect, said to be in his 20's with dark spiked hair, wearing a wind breaker type blue jacket and blue jeans.

UPDATE: 2:30pm – Commerce Police Department issues statement:

“On October 4, 2012 shortly after 11a.m., the Commerce Police Department received a call from the Hunt Regional Hospital about a man sitting on a bench with a pistol. The man described as a white male, believed to be in his 20's with dark spiked hair was wearing a wind breaker type blue jacket and blue jeans. The hospital an adjacent nursing home and all Commerce ISD schools were placed on lockdown. Responding Commerce Police Officers assisted by Texas A&M Officers searched the area on foot and in vehicles in the neighborhood but were unable to locate the suspected gunman. According to the witness, the suspected man had been sitting in a non threatening manner with the pistol on the bench.  All facilities were contacted and have resumed normal operations. The Commerce Elementary School continues to be on a modified lockdown and Commerce Police Officers will be patrolling the immediate area just as a precautionary measure."

UPDATE 1:09 pm - Commerce Independent School District spokeswoman Ludonna Smithers tells KETR's Daniel Starks, "When we were alerted of the situation by our School Resource Officer, Joe Venable, we took precautions and did a modified lockdown of the Administration Building and the other campuses. Since that time we have lifted the lockdown from the Middle School, A.C Williams and the High School. At this time the modified lock down is just on Commerce Elementary School. Right now it doesn’t require parents to take any actions. We are just trying to keep their kids safe and indoors."

UPDATE 12:37 pm - After speaking with Police Chief Kerry Crews, the police are not sure if the suspect got into a vehicle and left or if he is still in town.  Crews said he will be contacting the local schools to let them determine whether to continue the lockdown or not. 

Emergency Management Coordinator for Texas A&M University-Commerce Derek Preas said the university is not on lockdown at this time.

UPDATE 12:25pm - News Director Scott Harvey spoke with Cindy Franklin of Cooper Home Health. She said she received the message, "Don't go to the hospital” and that "Healthcare is aware.”

UPDATE - 12:19pm: Commerce Police Department issues statement:

"On October 4, at 11:11 a.m. the Commerce Police Department received a call from the Hunt Regional Hospital about a man with a pistol. The suspect is described as a white male, believed to be in his 20's with dark hair, and was wearing a blue jacket and blue jeans. The hospital and all schools are on lockdown until the suspect is apprehended. At this time, Commerce Police and University Police are searching for the suspect. If you see him, contact the Commerce Police Department at 911, or 903-886-1139."

UPDATE - 12:15pm:  The suspect was spotted around 11:11am outside the hospital.  He is described as a white male with dark hair in his early 20's wearing a blue jacket and blue jeans wearing and is armed with a hand gun.  Officials are urging everyone to take precaution, particularly in the area around the Commerce Hospital.

Our original report:

Social networks buzzing with talk of armed man outside Commerce hospital. Hospital placed on lockdown, as well as nearby schools.  KETR is gathering facts and will update the story as often as possible.