A Black hospital worker is suing his employer after he was almost shot by police during a mass-shooting drill that both patients, staff and authorities believed was a real attack.
Brandon Woodruff, a 32-year-old labourer, was asked to pose as a gunman as part of an active-shooter drill at the Hawthorn Center psychiatric hospital in Northville Township, Michigan, on 21 December 2022.
The worker, who is black, said he and a white colleague were told to walk around unarmed to make sure everyone followed procedures, though many at the center and even police didn’t know about the unannounced drill.
Woodruff’s attorneys said only supervisors were informed in advance and that they were instructed not to tell staff and the roughly 50 children.
The colleagues were told to walk around the facility and ensure every room was locked and the people inside hidden, and to note anyone who was not hidden or barricaded. The pair, dressed in winter clothes, walked the building without any weapons or objects.
According to the lawsuit, two announcements were made. The first stated there was an active intruder in the building and the second announced:
“Two active intruders, one Caucasian male, one African American male, armed with AR 15s, shots fired.”
“On December 21, 2022, shortly after 10 am, a frantic call went out over the Hawthorn Center paging system announcing for everyone to hear—children and employees alike—that there were active intruders in the building. Then a second frantic announcement came through the overhead system: “two active intruders, one Caucasian male, one African American male, armed with AR 15s, shots fired.”
When Woodruff appeared with a fake rifle on the day of the drill, many patients panicked and dialed 911. The calls caused 50 officers to race to the hospital in tactical gear and arrest Woodruff.
Woodruff said he saw a woman running for “her dear life,” according to Detroit Free Press.
“It was one particular room that drew me off guard, one of the living areas. It was the way it was barricaded with mattresses and chairs,” said Woodruff to Detroit Free Press. “I had an uneasy feeling like maybe these kids think this is real. I’m gonna like leave them alone in this area.”
When officers arrived from nearby Northville and Livonia townships along with Michigan State Police, they ordered two people in front of the building, one being Woodruff, to lie on the ground after they told officers it was a drill.
Another anonymous employee described the scene at the hospital after the drill.
“A lot of the children actually had to be sedated, so they had to call emergency for outside hospitals,” the employee said to Click on Detroit.
Woodruff’s attorneys said he was denied a request for mental health treatment in March.
“There was no transparency about the aftermath of this,” Woodruff said. “I feel they don’t care about what happened and they’re trying to minimize it and sweep it under the rug ’cause they know we are about to leave this building.”