ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- As the investigation continues into the shocking Monday evening assault of two newborns at Odessa Regional Medical Center, we sat down with Odessa’s Chief of Police, Mike Gerke, to get his thoughts on the attack and the way the hospital responded.
Gerke said he’s never seen an attack on children like this in his 25-year career and he said the swift action of the nurses and hospital security helped save several lives.
“The actions they took prevented a tragedy and prevented this incident from becoming much worse than it was,” Gerke said.
Around 6:30 p.m. on October 3, OPD officers were called to ORMC, located at 520 E 6th Street after nurses called 911 and said a man was choking an infant. That man was later identified as 18-year-old Marcus McCowan. Nurses said McCowan was a visitor in the Labor and Delivery unit because his girlfriend was there to have a baby. However, things quickly took a turn when McCowan began behaving strangely.
According to one nurse, McCowan approached her at the nurse’s station and grabbed her arm and made an “unintelligible statement”. He was asked to leave the area and nurses said he then began running back and forth in the hall. The nurses called McCowan’s actions “odd and unreasonable”.
McCowan then reportedly approached a new mom who was holding her newborn in a baby carrier while waiting to be discharged. The nurses said McCown began focusing his attention on the newborn, but briefly walked away when the new mother moved her child from his line of sight. A short time later, nurses said they heard stomping and then saw McCowan running toward them at full speed while yelling and screaming.
McCowan then charged all three nurses and tried to enter the nursery, which was locked and inaccessible to the public; McCowan reportedly pushed one nurse to the ground while trying to break into the nursery. After an unsuccessful attempt to gain access, McCowan grabbed the newborn in the carrier from its mother and took the baby into the Lactation Room.
A nurse followed McCowan inside and reportedly saw him with his hands around the baby’s neck. Nurses said the infant’s face changed color from lack of oxygen before they were able to wrestle the baby away and remove him from the Lactation Room.
At that point, a respiratory therapist, who heard yelling and came to investigate, saw McCowan force his way into the nursery, this time, successfully.
The therapist ran to the nursery and saw McCowan grab a newborn and begin strangling her with both hands. According to the witness, McCowan then picked up the baby, who had since turned blue, by her neck and began to shake her.
The respiratory therapist said McCowan said “die” to the infant and made a move as if he were going to throw her to the ground. The woman caught up to McCowan at that point and tried to slowly pull him to the ground in order to keep the child from falling. She then stayed with McCowan and the newborn, protecting her head in the process, until help arrived.
It’s the combined actions of the nurses and therapists on the floor, as well as by hospital security, that Gerke praised today. He also said he’s impressed by the security and safety measures in place at ORMC and that the bizarre and terrifying series of events that transpired Monday is something no one can truly train to combat.
“I think they have pretty good protocol in place. I think what happened that evening was one of those fluke incidents. You know, you can train for almost everything, but you can’t train for everything,” he said.
Gerke also said shocking and extreme crimes like this require extra time to investigate but wanted to reassure the community that once the investigation is finished, more information will be released from local prosecutors.
As of Wednesday evening, McCowan remained behind bars on a combined $228,000 bond. He’s been charged with two counts of Attempted Capital Murder, as well as Assault, Assault of a Public Servant, Resisting Arrest, Attempting to Take a Weapon From an Officer, Criminal Trespass, and Possession of a Controlled Substance.
OPD was not able to give us an update on the conditions of the two infants harmed by McCowan citing HIPPA and privacy concerns.