3 dead in Long Beach hospital shooting

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) " A family man who cracked jokes and smiled. That's how neighbors and co-workers describe the 50-year-old hospital worker who gunned down two employees before apparently killing himself at a major medical center on Thursday.

Questions remain about why Mario Ramirez of Alhambra walked into the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and, in broad daylight, shot two co-workers: Hugo Bustamante, 46, of Cypress and Kelly Hales, 56, of Redondo Beach.

Hospital spokeswoman Stacie Crompton-Hime said all three men worked in an outpatient pharmacy where Bustamante was the manager and Hales was the executive director. Asked by reporters if the shooting stemmed from a dispute or possible layoffs at the hospital, Crompton-Hime said there were layoffs last month but no other reductions were planned.

"There are no additional plans for any cutbacks at this facility," she said.

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

"This is a trend of active shooters that you have seen nationwide," Batts told a press conference. "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 at the family's Alhambra home, said her sister, Eva Reyes, who had come to comfort her. She declined further comment.

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

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.

Neighbor Gina Marquez, 41, described Ramirez as a family man who was quiet and polite. He would often go jogging with his wife, she said.

"You never heard a peep from that house. It's unreal," Marquez said. "I can't imagine what state of mind he would have been in to do something like that."

Batts said officers responding to the 11:47 a.m. shooting found one victim inside the hospital and then found a second victim outside on the north side of the hospital outside the emergency room. Ramirez was found dead outside on the north side.

A message left at Bustamante's home was not returned Thursday night. Hales' daughter, reached at the family's home, declined to comment.

Hospital workers recalled not only the moments surrounding the shooting on Thursday, but the man they knew in the years before.

Melo Dotski, a radiology department clerk, said she knew Ramirez by his first name for about two years. She said she used to help him with transactions when she worked as a teller at a bank at the medical center.

"He made all kinds of jokes, he was a funny man," Dotski said. "He was smiling, laughing, making sure everybody was doing OK."

But hospital worker Edward Collins' encounter with Ramirez on Thursday made him tremble as he recounted coming upon the violence.

"When I got off the elevator, I heard screams," Collins said. 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," Collins said.

According to Collins' account, the gunman eventually pointed the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.

The approximately 460-bed hospital is one of six health care facilities in Southern California operated by the not-for-profit MemorialCare system, run by Memorial Health Services.

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Associated Press Writer Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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