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Doctor stabbed, attacker killed

MGH patient shot by guard

By David Abel and Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / October 28, 2009

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A patient at a Massachusetts General Hospital bipolar clinic stabbed his psychiatrist during a treatment session yesterday afternoon, and was then shot dead by an off-duty security guard, in a frantic scene that a colleague later described as “every psychiatrist’s worst nightmare.’’

Dr. Astrid Desrosiers, a 49-year-old instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the mother of grown children, and a celebrated doctor in the city’s Haitian community, was in stable condition at MGH and recovering from her wounds, relatives, colleagues, and hospital officials said.

Police identified the assailant as Jay Carciero, 37, of Reading. Relatives described him as a father of four apparently suffering from bipolar disorder.

The actions of the unidentified security guard were hailed as “heroic’’ by Bonnie Michelman, head of security for Mass. General, even as Boston police questioned the guard at headquarters.

“We’re happy he was there,’’ Michelman said at a press conference outside the clinic yesterday. She said he does not work at the hospital, and police declined to release his name.

A law enforcement official described a harrowing scene in which patients and staff could hear Desrosiers’ sudden screams from inside a treatment room just after 2 p.m., prompting people to race toward the exits.

While others were fleeing, the official said, the security guard burst into the fifth-floor room and ordered the assailant to “drop the knife.’’

When he did not, the guard fired several shots, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There was no indication last night that investigators believed the guard did anything wrong, and the official said the guard was licensed to carry the weapon.

The events unfolded in an office building on Staniford Street where Massachusetts General Hospital leases space for its Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, a few blocks from the main hospital campus, where an unrelated assault occurred last week.

Isabellie Desrosiers, who identified herself as the victim’s sister-in-law, said she received a panicked call from Desrosiers’ sister shortly after the stabbing.

The conversation was brief, said Desrosiers, who is married to the victim’s brother.

She related that the sister cried out: “Astride has been stabbed. She’s bleeding.’’

Then she said she had no more details and hung up, said Desrosiers.

“I don’t have any details,’’ said Desrosiers, who added that she had spent the afternoon trying to reach her relatives since receiving the call.

Yesterday, police and witnesses described a crime scene crowded with medical personnel and patients that stretched from an interior office to a hallway.

“There was blood on the rug,’’ said David Schoenfeld, a biostatistician who was working in an adjacent office on the fifth floor when the treatment session turned violent.

After at least one gunshot echoed on the fifth floor, two nurses from Schoenfeld’s office went to treat Carciero, who had apparently been shot in the head by the off-duty security guard, Schoenfeld said.

Carciero was still breathing when emergency medical technicians arrived. “It felt like it took a long time before the ambulances arrived, but it was probably only a few minutes,’’ Schoenfeld said.

At the press conference, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said the violence erupted during a treatment session.

“During the course of the stabbing incident, an off-duty security officer who was armed interceded,’’ Davis said. “He produced a weapon and ordered the suspect to drop the knife. When the suspect did not comply, he shot the suspect.’’

Susan DeAngelis was standing outside the building when police cruisers roared to the curb, their sirens blaring. “It was so frightening,’’ said DeAngelis, 60, of Reading. “It’s just appalling what happened. My doctor works in that building.’’

Desrosiers has been medical director of the Haitian Mental Health Clinic at the Cambridge Health Alliance and on staff at the Bipolar Clinic at MGH, where her research has focused on treatment of mood disorders, health disparities, and the impact of multicultural issues on patient care, according to the hospital’s website. She has worked at Mass. General since 2005.

Desrosiers is a graduate of the State University of Haiti’s School of Medicine and Pharmacy and holds a master’s degree from Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Colleagues and friends of Desrosiers described her as an “excellent psychiatrist’’ and a “wonderful woman.’’

“She has been fabulous to our community,’’ said Carline Desiré, executive director of the Association of Haitian Women in Boston, which has featured the doctor as a keynote speaker at several events.

“We are deeply saddened by this news, and hope she gets well soon,’’ Desiré said. “We know she had some tough cases, but this is every psychiatrist’s worst nightmare.’’

MGH officials, in a statement last night, described Desrosiers as “providing extraordinary care and treatment to patients who are among the most vulnerable and those with the most severe psychiatric disorders.

“Her commitment, compassion and courage are an inspiration to all of us.’’ they said.

In the neighborhood where Desrosiers lives in Belmont, neighbors left flowers outside her home.

One neighbor, Pat Coppola, called the Desrosiers “wonderful people’’ who have two college-age children, a son and a daughter. “She’s a wonderful lady, a good neighbor,’’ he said.

A distant relative of Carciero, who asked for anonymity, said she had not seen him for at least two years, but described him as a father of four who struggled for years with bipolar disorder.

“He was a nice guy,’’ she said. “Jay was a kind boy, but just had too much mental issues. It was sad. He was trying to get help. I guess it wasn’t enough.’’

His oldest child is about 8 or 9 years old, she said, recalling that the boy made his First Communion a couple of years ago.

Attorney James Perullo, who is representing the family and last night was standing in the driveway at the Carciero home in Reading, said the family had no comment.

“He was a hard-working guy, who like most fathers wanted the best for his children,’’ Perullo said of Carciero. “We are confused by today’s events.’’

He said Carciero was seeking help, but he could not speak to his mental illness.

Carciero had worked at the Lahey Clinic as a manager of food and facilities for Sodexo, an international food management company, and he had received positive reviews, Perullo said.

Several years ago, he and his brother reported a possible kickback scheme in which the company was changing prices for higher “rebates’’ from vendors. Federal agencies have investigated, and Carciero was considered a key witness in the whistleblower case, Perullo said.

The security officer who shot Carciero was identified by Fox News last night as Paul Langone, of Reading, but the name could not be confirmed.

It was the second attack in less than a week inside a Massachusetts General Hospital facility. On Thursday afternoon, a 40-year-old homeless man allegedly assaulted a 27-year-old female employee inside a restroom at the main hospital building on Fruit Street. The suspect, David Flavell, a repeat sex offender, was ordered yesterday to undergo a 20-day evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital.

Martin Finucane, Andrew Ryan, and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Jack Nicas, Abbie Ruzicka, and Stewart Bishop contributed to this report.