Man with gun in Scottsdale hospital to be freed - East Valley Tribune: News

Man with gun in Scottsdale hospital to be freed

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Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 7:17 pm | Updated: 9:20 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A man who wielded a 12-gauge shotgun and fired shots inside Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn's administrative offices last July is not facing criminal prosecution and is expected to be released from a mental health facility next week.

Shotgun-toting man fires shot inside hospital

Doctors treating Gilbert "Fritz" Tuffli III found the 55-year-old Scottsdale man not to be a danger to others, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents.

Last month, a judge declared Tuffli incompetent to stand trial on three counts of aggravated assault in connection with last year's incident at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn.

Prosecutors at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office say they are concerned about Tuffli's pending release, which is expected Tuesday. They plan to take action over what they deem is a flawed ruling in the Arizona justice system.

"We are very disturbed by it. We don't believe doctors should be making decisions relating to public safety," said Barnett Lotstein, a special assistant county attorney with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Tuffli, a former Tempe police officer and activist who twice ran unsuccessfully for Tempe City Council, was first found incompetent to stand trial by the court in September and was ordered into a Maricopa County mental health facility for treatment, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say they are upset that they didn't have more of a say in the process, and when they petitioned the court for notice of Tuffli's release, they were denied.

"Our interest is protecting the public and protecting the victims," said Lotstein, who is petitioning the Arizona Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling to allow prosecutors to have a more inclusive role in the process, giving them the right to have their own mental health experts' opinions included in court testimony and be given notice of defendants' release dates.

Scottsdale Healthcare officials also expressed concern over Tuffli's release.

"We are extremely disappointed in the decision to release him, given his past behavior. We feel he's a threat to public safety," said Keith Jones, Scottsdale Healthcare's director of public relations.

Authorities said Tuffli entered Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn the morning of July 23, 2007, through the patient admitting area and headed down a hallway that led to the hospital's administrative offices. According to police reports, Tuffli was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and was making threats.

Police said Scottsdale Healthcare security guard Gary Purcell quickly subdued Tuffli, pushing Tuffli's gun to the ground seconds before it fired. Shell fragments, which ricocheted off the wall and ceiling, left three people with minor injuries.

Tuffli later was found to have five shells in the shotgun and 12 more in a backpack.

Police said Tuffli's altercation last summer was not his first at Scottsdale Healthcare.

The health care organization, which has three campuses in Scottsdale, obtained a restraining order against Tuffli after a May 2007 incident in which Tuffli, a former patient at the hospital, is alleged to have threatened a nurse, kicked a hospital chaplain and grabbed Purcell moments after appearing at the hospital's Osborn campus confused and disoriented, according to court documents.

State and city officials would not disclose Tuffli's current whereabouts or medical condition, citing privacy issues.

According to court documents, Tuffli was ordered in January to continue to receive treatment at Maricopa County Correctional Health Services. An official at the agency said Tuffli was released from their care two weeks ago. Scottsdale Healthcare officials confirmed that Tuffli was recently moved to another mental health facility, where he is currently awaiting release.

Lotstein said Maricopa County prosecutors have not yet determined their next course of action regarding Tuffli, but said that in similar cases, the general practice has been to re-arrest the defendant and start the competency hearings again.

"Doctors cannot predict with certainty the defendant cannot regain competency," Lotstein said.

In anticipation of Tuffli's release, Scottsdale police are working with Scottsdale Healthcare to make sure the necessary security precautions are taken, said Sgt. Mark Clark, a spokesman for the Scottsdale Police Department.

Jones declined to discuss security specifics but said that the safety of their hospitals' patients and staff is "always of paramount importance."

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