After woman fatally shoots terminally ill husband in Florida hospital, questions persist

Authorities say it’s unclear how she was able to bring a gun into the hospital. She remained in the room for hours, forcing patients to be moved.

A woman is in prison after fatally shooting her husband in a hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida, and some questions remain about the incident.

It remains unclear how she managed to get a firearm in the hospital, and police said she declined to answer questions from investigators.

Police say Ellen Gilland, 76, shot and killed her terminally ill husband, who was being treated at AdventHealth Daytona Beach Hospital. The woman initially intended to take her own life after shooting her husband, Jerry Gilland, 77, but she couldn’t go through with it, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari E. Young said, according to a CNN report.

Authorities said nobody else was injured in the incident, which took place Jan. 21. She remained in the room for hours after shooting her husband, police said.

Gilland has been charged with murder and aggravated assault, police said.

Daytona Beach police provided more details on the incident Monday and also released body camera footage, which shows officers shouting at her to drop the gun. One member of the team implores her, "We don't want to hurt you ... Talk to me." Police eventually are seen removing her from the hospital, in a wheelchair. (You can watch part of the police video; the story continues below.)

The hospital staff had to evacuate patients, which police described as a “logistical nightmare,” according to reporting by WESH-TV. Most of the patients on that floor are on ventilators, police said.

Daytona Beach police released the arrest report Monday, which provided more details on the incident.

Two witnesses entered the hospital room after the shooting, according to the report. Police said Gilland pointed the firearm at the two individuals and ordered them to leave the room, and they did.

Another witness entered the room after hearing the firearm, and recognized the suspect as the victim’s wife. Gilland pointed the weapon at the witness’ chest and told the witness to get out of the room, the witness told police. The witnesses were not identified in the police report.

More than four hours after the shooting, police used a “flashbang” distraction device and a SWAT team entered the room.

The SWAT team used a stun gun, which was unsuccessful in subduing Gilland, police said. As the stun gun was fired at her, Gilland shot a round from her handgun, which struck the ceiling above her husband’s bed, police said. She then dropped the gun and the SWAT team apprehended her without further incident, according to the arrest report.

A detective attempted to interview Gilland but she declined to answer questions and asked for a lawyer, police said.

The incident comes after fatal shootings at medical facilities in Dallas, Texas and Oklahoma last year. Doctors and nurses complained that they are encountering more violence from patients and families members in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The police chief said, "Obviously, we're unsure how she brought that gun into the hospital, but this was planned,” WESH reported.

In a statement about the incident Monday, Daytona Beach police said, “We worked together as a team and accomplished the best possible outcome given the situation.”

While no staff were injured, hospital employees were told to remain in place, and one doctor told CNN he stayed in a supply closet.

Hospitals need to train staff to deal with threats, including someone with a weapon, Brine Hamilton, then-president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, told Chief Healthcare Executive last June.

“The big thing is training,” Hamilton said, and he added, “Not just security staff but all staff.”

Healthcare systems should consider forming multidisciplinary teams, including members of clinical and security staff, to address workforce violence and assess threats, Hamilton said.

“Generally speaking, security and clinical have a different mindset when approaching these situations,” he said. “It fosters the opportunity for these different stakeholders to approach each other.”

More hospitals have been deploying metal detectors and other technology to screen for weapons, Paul Sarnese, assistant vice president for security at Virtua Health in New Jersey, said during an online discussion on improving healthcare security in November. Sarnese is a former president of the International Association of Healthcare Security and Safety.

Hospitals looking to take such steps have to also deploy or hire security staff.

“It’s the investment in technology, which is getting cheaper every day, and the investment of people power, which a lot of organizations are struggling with,” Sarnese said during the discussion.

Doctors and nurses have been calling on healthcare organizations to do more to protect staff from violent incidents. Less than half of nurses surveyed (47%) said they think their employers value their safety and health, according to a report by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

Sarah Warren, a nurse who has written about the violence healthcare workers face, wrote on Twitter after the Daytona Beach hospital shooting.

“No patient or healthcare worker should have to worry about an individual entering the hospital with a gun on top of the stress of needing medical care or providing it,” she wrote. “This is unacceptable.”

Daytona Beach police referred inquiries about the hospital’s security to AdventHealth.

A request for comment from AdventHealth wasn’t returned Monday.

In a statement, AdventHealth said, "We are devastated by the tragedy that unfolded at the AdventHealth Daytona Beach campus today, and our prayers are with those impacted. We are grateful for the Daytona Beach Police Department in helping ensure the safety of our patients, team members and visitors,” WESH-TV reported.

AdventHealth operates 51 hospitals in nine states.

Learn more

The Joint Commission offers a host of resources for healthcare organizations to reduce workplace violence.