Erroneous report of gunfire; man sends hospital into lockdown

WILLIAMSPORT — An inaccurate report of a possible gunman at the UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center on Wednesday morning sent city police rushing to the facility.

There was no shooter and no shots were fired; however, an 18-year-old man was nabbed about a block south of the facility and charged with allegedly punching and kicking his 17-year-old pregnant girlfriend in a public area on the third floor of the medical center about 10:10 a.m., police said.

Patrolwoman Nikita Bonnell was credited with apprehending Jaziah Q. Strickland moments after he fled the hospital, at 700 High St., police said. He was not armed with any weapon, police said.

The officer, while on routine patrol near the hospital, was stopped at a traffic light at High and Walnut streets when she saw a young man wearing a black jacket and carrying a pink backpack on his back, running from the south side of the hospital’s emergency room parking lot, police said.

As she turned her vehicle to follow the man, a dispatcher alerted officers of a “report of shots fired at the hospital” and that there “were multiple callers contacting 911 of a possible shooter,” according to court records.

The dispatcher relayed that the suspect was a man carrying a pink backpack, police said. Without incident, Bonnell stopped the man with the backpack, identified as Strickland, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a police cruiser.

No details were provided on where the false reports of a possible gunman on the premises originated.

Through her investigation, Bonnell said in her affidavit that Strickland and his girlfriend “walked to the hospital together to use the hospital’s WiFi.”

Once at the hospital, Strickland started going through his girlfriend’s cellphone, “which resulted in him becoming aggressive toward her,” Bonnell said.

“Strickland punched the girlfriend in the face multiple times, causing her to fall to the ground. While on the ground, Strickland kicked her in the stomach twice, telling her, ‘You don’t care about this baby anyway,'” Bonnell alleged.

In early November, a judge issued a protection-from-abuse order against Strickland that prohibited him from abusing, harassing, stalking or threatening his girlfriend, who is now 17 weeks pregnant with his baby, Bonnell said.

Tyler Wagner, the hospital’s communication specialist, said “there was an immediate staff response to the incident” when it occurred.

“Per our policy and procedure, the region of the building in which the incident occurred, including the emergency department, was immediately placed on lockdown and there was a police response to the facility.

“The lockdown was lifted at approximately 10:45 a.m. and the hospital returned to normal operations,” he said.

While the pregnant teen was treated at the hospital for injuries she suffered in the assault, Strickland, of 878 Memorial Ave., was arraigned before District Judge Allen P. Page III on charges of aggravated assault against an unborn child, aggravated and simple assault, public drunkenness and harassment.

He also was taken before Judge Richard A. Gray for violating the protection-from-abuse order. He was committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $85,000 bail.

Sun-Gazette staffer Katelyn Hibbard contributed to this story.

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