It was the second report of an active shooter at a local hospital in the past four months.

And both were false. Bogus. Lies.

Tuesday’s lockdown of Dignity Health's Bakersfield Memorial Hospital involved scores of police officers and first-responders. It resulted in the shut down of a major local hospital, and brought significant emotional stress into the lives of large numbers of patients, visitors and staff.

Still, the hospital's Chief Operating Officer Ken Keller said Tuesday's outcome was much preferred to the alternative.

"We are glad it ended up being a false alarm," Keller said Wednesday.

Keller lauded hospital staff, who he said took immediate action to secure patients, visitors and ultimately themselves.

And the earliest first-responders were there in about two minutes, he said.

A man suspected of making false reports of an active shooter — Mario Thompson, 46 — was identified and arrested. Thompson is also suspected in a similar false active shooter alert at Mercy Hospital Southwest in August. Still, the incidents leave many questions unanswered. 

But Sgt. Brian Holcombe of the Bakersfield Police Department attempted to answer many of them Wednesday.

He said multiple teams of officers cleared every room in the hospital, a six-story building that boasts 420 hospital beds, not to mention closets, labs, administrative offices and other spaces. That's a huge, risky and time-consuming task, one that had to be done as officers had to operate with the belief that there could indeed have been an armed gunman in the building.

Eighty-seven officers and other BPD personnel worked the incident, Holcombe said, and the vast majority were at the scene.

"That's well over 100 emergency responders when you count the (Bakersfield Fire Department), CHP and other agencies," he said.

While the massive response by first-responders was necessary under the circumstances, it is fair to say, Holcombe said, that the BPD prioritizes each situation and sends resources where they are needed most.

"Falsely reporting emergencies absolutely places the public at risk," he said.

Officers used emergency code (lights and siren) to get to the scene, he said. And it's a potential risk to someone elsewhere who could have been experiencing a 911 emergency and seen a slower response time as a result.

Keller said the hospital and the BPD will hold a series of debriefings to study the two incidents.

Debriefs are a regular tool used by the BPD.

"Yes, we are in a perpetual state of assessments and improvements," Holcombe said. "Internal debriefs are completed after all kinds of incidents and calls for service. Each unique situation is seen as an opportunity to evaluate how we can improve."

Holcombe continued:

TBC: The initial call came from within the building. Was that on some sort of courtesy phone available to visitors, or a phone line that would normally be off-limits to non-hospital staff?

BPD: The initial call was generated from an internal phone system controlled by the hospital. The investigation is ongoing as to where the phone was inside the hospital.

TBC: Were many staff, visitors or patients found sheltering in place as officers cleared the rooms?

BPD: Yes. Because there was no mass evacuation, several staff, visitors, and patients were inside during the lockdown.

TBC: We believe it's possible the man who was arrested studied criminology in college. Are you able to say whether he ever applied for a job with the BPD?

BPD: Job application information would have to be referred to Human Resources.

(Holcombe later clarified the suspect's felony record would have ruled him out as job candidate.)

TBC: The second call Tuesday by a reporting party who said they heard shots fired — is it possible that call also came from the arrested suspect?

BPD: No. The second call, which was the only call of “shots heard” taken in this incident, was from a female employee. That female employee was calling to report the information provided second-hand to her by a female co-worker. These employees were interviewed and there was nothing suspicious about the information they provided.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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