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With Urge to Help and a Hug, Nurse Disarmed Attacker

August 11, 1993|From Associated Press

CORONA — Nurse Joan Black took quick action Monday when a blood-spattered woman burst into the emergency room firing a pistol. She hugged her.

"Looking back on it, it was probably the stupidest thing I've ever done," said Black, 62. "But I saw her and saw another victim. I saw a sick person and had to take care of her."

Black, who treated the war-wounded in Vietnam and victims of street violence at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, said Tuesday that she disarmed the distraught woman and possibly prevented her suicide.

Sopehia Mardress White, 31, was arrested for investigation of attempted murder and child endangerment in the attack Monday that wounded nurse Elizabeth T. Staten at Corona Regional Medical Center.

Staten, 27, was in stable condition with wounds to the abdomen and wrist. She is expected to recover. Investigators were checking reports that Staten and White had been involved with the same man.

"She was telling the person who was shot, 'You took my husband, you took my kids. Prepare to die,"' Black said.

The attack started in the hospital's nursery, where police said White fired six rounds. Three babies were in the room.

"Thank God nothing happened," said Bob Fraschetti, the hospital's chief operating officer. "They were not hit."

White chased Staten to the emergency room and fired a seventh round from her .38-caliber handgun, said Corona Police Capt. Larry Lewis. That's where she encountered Black.

"I put my arm around her and started talking to her," said Black. "She kept saying that she didn't have anything to live for, that this woman had stolen her family.

"I kept saying, 'You're in pain. I'm sorry, but everybody has pain in their life. . . . I understand and we can work it out.' "

Black said she clasped the gun so the woman could not cock it, "but she kept her finger on the trigger."

At one point, she raised the weapon "like she was going to shoot herself," Black said. "I just pushed the gun down again."

"Finally, she said 'Joan, I'm going to give you the gun,' and she gave it to me. Then the police came, and they cuffed her, and, of course, about that time I just disintegrated."

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