According to Reuters, a nurse is suing her employer and local police officials after she was held hostage during an active shooter safety drill without being warned in advance that such a drill was taking place. On October 13, 2013, registered nurse Michelle Meeker was working at Heritage Park Care Center, a nursing home in Carbondale, Colorado, when, according to court documents, she was told by a coworker to check up on a suspicious-looking man who was hanging around in the facility’s day room. When she made contact with the individual, he told her to follow him down a nearby hallway and then instructed her to go into an empty room. When she refused, he brandished a pistol and, placing his hand on her back, forced her to comply.
Unbeknownst to Meeker, the apparent gunman was actually a police officer with the Carbondale Police Department, and the hostage situation she thought she was facing was just a drill. Michael Zimmerman, the officer who conducted the drill, claims that he whispered to Meeker in an effort to alert her to the fact that he is a police officer, but, considering the fact that he was holding her hostage at gunpoint at that time, she did not believe him. Meeker claims that no one at her workplace warned her in advance about the active shooter drill, causing her to believe that the threat was real.
According to the full text of the lawsuit, which was published by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, “In a desperate plea for her life, she begged the man not to hurt her, telling him she had a young child.” The court documents also stated, “The man then instructed Ms. Meeker to remain in the room and said that she had to help him ‘capture’ one of her co-workers.” Meeker resigned from her job after the traumatizing incident. She is suing Chief Eugene Schilling of the Carbondale Police Department, the executives in charge of Heritage Park Care Center, and Officer Michael Zimmerman for emotional and mental distress, lost wages, and medical expenses.
Thomas Rice, an attorney with the Carbondale Police Department, argued that Heritage Park Care Center should have warned Meeker about the exercise. Said Rice, “I don’t know whether Heritage notified Ms. Meeker, but it wasn’t the town’s responsibility.” According to legal experts at KUSA-TV 9NEWS, Heritage Park Care Center signed a document explaining how it would inform patients and employees about the drill, which seems to suggest that culpability might fall on Meeker’s employer, possibly meaning that the case will eventually be settled as a worker’s compensation claim.
In a statement to 9NEWS, a representative from Heritage Park Care Center said, “Because the safety of the residents, associates and their families at Heritage Park Care Center is our top priority, we conduct routine safety drills to prepare for any type of situation we might face. Recently, we conducted an armed intruder drill at our facility with the assistance of a trained, reputable safety consulting group. Local police had also been notified in advance and were on site during the drill. Unfortunately, the training exercise alarmed some at our facility. We have reassured everyone that the situation was safe and controlled. Heritage Park Care Center is not only committed to providing quality care to those in our community, but to also keeping our residents and associates safe. We are proud to be a member of this community, and we pledge to continue our quest for excellence.”