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EDITORIAL: Root of violent hospital scene must be addressed; we regret erroneous police report
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EDITORIAL: Root of violent hospital scene must be addressed; we regret erroneous police report

Community Hospital shooting

Lake County Sheriff's Department squad cars are parked outside of Community Hospital in Munster as police investigate Tuesday's fatal shooting.

The outcome was sad, unconscionable and unfortunately far too long in the making based on the way our society has neglected proper care and services for mental health.

Most people in the Region are familiar with last week's articles and headlines, detailing the fatal shooting of psychiatric patient Jamal Williams, 22, and hospital security guard Ryan Askew, 59, a retired Lake County police officer, in the midst of a violent struggle at Community Hospital in Munster.

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Regrettably, initial police reports from a week ago Tuesday, which were relayed to police officials from the scene and then to The Times, indicated that during the struggle, Williams had gained control of Askew's firearm and had used it to fatally shoot Askew.

Later updates to the story reflected revised police accounts concluding Askew's fellow hospital security guard, Benny Freeman, also a retired Lake County officer, actually fatally shot Williams and accidentally shot Askew, who also died, after Williams assaulted a nurse and then overpowered Askew, both choking and beating the retired officer after badly beating the nurse. An investigation into the shootings continued Monday.

UPDATE: NWI cops mourn loss of retired officer shot in hospital struggle

Those same reports indicated Askew, being choked by Williams to a state of near unconsciousness, begged Freeman to open fire. Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said the violent acts carried out by Williams against the nurse and Askew are undisputed by those who witnessed the scene.

Carter has said there was real reason to believe Askew's life was in danger if Freeman didn't act.

While it's regrettable initial accounts about Williams using a firearm, including details published on, were incorrect, it doesn't change the violence of what unfolded at the scene or that fact that lives — of both a security guard and nurse — were in danger.

Retired officer remains in hospital after shooting that killed partner, patient

Our mission, as always, is to get breaking news information to readers as quickly as it is available to us via trusted sources. In this case, some trusted sources were wrong. We're always looking for ways to learn and improve, and this case is no exception to that mission.

But that doesn't hold sway over the reality that a young man with a mental health concern was at a hospital for help with his condition but ended up shot dead after what police are describing as a violent outburst and assaults at the facility. A nurse and security guard were brutally attacked before the fatal shootings of Williams and Askew unfolded, authorities now confirm.

UPDATE: Retired cop urged partner to shoot as psychiatric patient choked him, prosecutor said

Our society is crying out for so much right now: racial equality and social justice, all amid the COVID-19 global pandemic for which our scientists desperately seek a cure.

In the midst of these very important and pressing issues, let us not forget the very pressing need for improvements to the way our society treats, helps and provides services for the mentally ill.

We are seeing many constructive conversations about so many social ills throughout our nation right now.

Let it all extend to the need for reform in mental health treatment — and in acknowledging it for what it is: a medical condition requiring care.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Regional News Editor Sharon Ross, Assistant Deputy Editor Andrew Steele.

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