2 die in UW medical school shooting
Police say resident killed supervisor, then self
Thursday, June 29, 2000
By ROBERT L. JAMIESON Jr. and RUTH SCHUBERT
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTERS
A University of Washington medical resident who was going to be fired on
Saturday walked into the office of his administrator yesterday and fatally
shot him before turning the gun on himself.
The gunman, Dr. Jian Chen, a medical resident of one year, had come from
medical school in Shanghai to work at the UW Medical Center. But a fellow
worker said Chen "was not cutting it" because of language and interpersonal
problems, and had known for months that his job was in peril.
Police arrive at the UW Medical Center after yesterday's fatal shootings.
Authorities said the gunman was Dr. Jian Chen, a pathology resident who "was
not cutting it." His victim was Dr. Rodger Haggitt.
The victim, Dr. Rodger Haggitt, a married father of three grown children,
was a pleasant, taciturn and focused researcher. He balanced work as a world
-renowned gastrointestinal pathologist with love of teaching, car racing,
jazz and the Italian language.
Haggitt was trying to help Chen get work elsewhere.
Yesterday afternoon, Chen entered Haggitt's second-floor office in the UW's
Department of Pathology -- and shut the door behind him, locking it.
"There was a loud exchange of words. Then a pop! pop!" said Capt. Steve
Robinson of the UW police department.
Dr. Edward Kim, a fellow pathology resident who knew Chen, said: "He was
upset with the program. . . . He was upset with Dr. Haggitt.
"And we all heard about the yelling conferences they had with each other,
about not being able to find another program for him."
The shootings, at the giant health sciences complex of interlocking
buildings, occurred away from the areas where patients are treated.
But the gunfire threw the bucolic UW campus into convulsions of grief, as
people clustered around television sets and stood in silent circles of shock.
"It's a tragedy," said Capt. Randy Stegmeier of the UW police. "Two highly
educated men, now gone."
Police said Chen's contract was not going to be renewed, and he was going to
be released July 1. Authorities said Chen either had an appointment or, at
the very least, was expected at Haggitt's office yesterday afternoon.
Chen entered Room BB 210-B and closed the door.
Seconds later, people in nearby offices heard shouting followed by two shots
, possibly three.
When police officers arrived they found Haggitt, 57, with at least one
gunshot to the chest; Chen had shot himself in the head.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene. Police recovered a handgun,
though it is not immediately clear how Chen got the weapon.
UW personnel said Chen -- who was in his mid 30s and whose family lives in
Taiwan -- was very qualified on paper: He held doctorate and medical degrees
and had published several papers.
But they believe he may have felt the crushing weight of his pending job
loss, compounded by other pressures that medical residents, particularly
foreign ones, face.
Those pressures include financial demands and work schedules.
Anita Verna Crofts, executive director of the Foundation for International
Understanding Through Students, a group affiliated with the UW, said "there
also could potentially have been a cultural chasm as well."
The medical residency in pathology normally takes four to five years to
complete. Pathology residencies are considered less rigorous than
residencies in other medical disciplines. But the UW's pathology program is
hailed as one of the more intense in the country.
Wen Ley Kim, the wife of Edward Kim, said her husband told her that he didn'
t know what Chen might do.
"They kicked him out of the program," Wen Ley Kim said, "and he couldn't
find anything else."
Chen had difficulty speaking English. But that wasn't the only problem, said
Wen Ley Kim, who works as a clinical technical at the UW's Medical Center.
"He wasn't cutting it," she said.
The residency experience varies from doctor to doctor and from specialty to
specialty. Pathologists spend many hours at the microscope, studying biopsy
specimens to determine what disease a patient suffers from, or if a clump of
cells is tumorous. By most accounts, Haggitt was demanding but honest.
Edward Kim, who was an acquaintance of Chen's, said Chen "had difficulties
right from the beginning."
"The faculty basically didn't allow him to practice after I would say about
two months into the rotation."
Kim also said Chen had difficulty taking orders from people, which may have
stemmed from his language difficulties, his free spirit -- or both.
"It was very difficult for him to understand just about any command you gave
him. You really had to sit down and patiently tell him what to do," Edward
Kim said. "People would tell him how to handle a certain specimen, and for
whatever reason he wanted to do things his own way."
Chen also was having difficulty trying to get into another program, though
Haggitt and Rochelle Garcia, an acting assistant professor of pathology,
were trying help him. "He was somewhat self-destructive at the end. He wasn'
t taking any initiative to get into another program.," said Edward Kim, who
last saw Chen two months ago.
The scene after the shooting was a surreal tableau.
In the offices near the shooting site, residents and staff scrambled to get
out. Meanwhile in offices on other floors, some workers knew nothing about
the shooting and even called reporters to get details while they remained
hunkered in self-imposed "lock down" at the medical center.
Deanna Braaten and her sister, Jenna Carlson, were sitting in a "quiet room"
down the hall from where the shots were fired. Braaten's 3-1/2-year-old son
, Caleb, was asleep on the couch.
"It didn't disturb him," said Braaten, who was waiting for her mother to
come out of surgery to amputate her foot. "We haven't had any interruption
at all. We only heard two staff members outside the door talking about a
"I thought, 'shooting?' But it didn't occur to us that the shooting was in
At 5:30 p.m., a doctor and several other members of hospital staff stood
watching TV reports in a lounge just down the hall and around the corner
from where the shooting took place. Down the hall, in another waiting room,
a dozen people sat waiting for their relatives.
And Steve Chun, joined by his 11-year-old son, Lindsey, waited for Steve's
wife, who was having surgery on her knee.
"We knew something was going on, but we didn't know what it was. We never
heard any shots," Chun said.
"The hospital probably was trying not to cause panic. Especially here, where
people are under stress already, either medically or professionally. They
didn't want to cause more anxiety. It's not like the perpetrator was running
down the hall."
At the end of a long day, Robinson, of the UW police, weighed the sad events
. He said that in the last 28 years, the university -- which swells to a
daytime population of 55,000 students, staff, employees and visitors -- has
had eight homicides, including the murder of Haggitt.
"Even one homicide is too many," he said wearily.
And yesterday two lives were lost.
Chen -- an ambitious young doctor who crossed an ocean to learn, and Haggitt
-- a brilliant scientist who wanted to help.
Haggitt was to speak at a pathologists' convention in November and brush up
on his Italian language skills.
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