New details on lockdown at Ben Taub after mistaken report of gunshots

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A report of gunfire earlier this year at Houston’s bustling Ben Taub Hospital forced medical staff to barricade themselves in offices, emergency-room nurses to evacuate patients and heavily armed police officers to scour the six-story building in search of a shooter.

The Feb. 21 incident rattled the city, with its high concentration of medical professionals, and left many questions unanswered even after police found no evidence of a shooter, a shooting victim or any shots fired.

The county’s Harris Health System on Monday released a document that sheds new light on the incident. The Chronicle obtained the document through a public-records request.

Based on the document’s narrative, it appears a hospital patient may have falsely yelled about a gun.

The two-page report by Harris Health security explains how hospital staff initiated the “Code White,” which means there may be an active shooter in the building. 

Staff members in the second-floor ear, nose and throat, or ENT, clinic initiated the Code White at 1:55 p.m. 

Three minutes later the first security personnel arrived on the scene: a Harris Health security official along with two sheriff’s deputies who were already in the hospital, including a Fort Bend County sheriff’s captain and a Harris County sheriff’s deputy guarding a jail inmate who presumably was getting treatment.

“The staff described hearing a male voice state ‘Drop the Gun!’ followed by two gun shots,” the security official wrote in the report. “The location of the voice came from an exam room in the ENT area.”

The sheriff’s captain and sheriff’s deputy found a male patient in an exam room and searched him, according to the report. The patient did not have a firearm.

Houston police officers responded a few minutes later and took over the scene, leading the two-hour search of the hospital’s six floors as staff and patients waited for news. SWAT officers with rifles could be seen making their way up the hospital’s glass-walled stairwell.

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