Nurse talked down armed man in ER: 'She did a fantastic job'

BEAVERTON, Ore. - A man walked into the emergency room at St. Vincent Medical Center on Thursday morning and put a gun to his own head while demanding medicine.

But before the situation escalated any more, a nurse managed to talk Joseph Spina into putting down the gun, deputies said.

The incident happened around 7 a.m. when Spina, 48, walked in the ER and approached a nurse, according to Washington County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Vance Stimler.

Spina pulled out a gun, put it to his head and demanded he be given drugs, according to Stimler.

That's when the nurse, who hasn't been identified, calmly told Spina she couldn't treat him with a gun to his head.

"The nurse, with 30 years of experience, was thinking on her feet," Stimler said.

Spina pulled the gun away from his head, but instead pointed it at his chest, Stimler said. The nurse repeated that she couldn't treat him as long as he had a gun.

Spina finally put down the gun and another hospital employee grabbed it, Stimler said. Deputies arrived within a minute and arrested Spina.

"The nurse was very quick on her feet and avoided what could be a very serious situation, possibly saving several lives," Stimler said. "The key is she stayed calm. She did a fantastic job."

Spina was taken to the Washington County Jail and faces robbery, menacing and "unlawful use of a weapon" charges.

Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Helderop said employees across the hospital get training to deal with a variety of emergencies.

She said the hospital does have its own security team, but she wasn't sure if they were in the ER at the time. Either way, she said they were thankful deputies responded to quickly.

"The training and experience of our employees kept our patients and employees safe," hospital officials wrote to the staff in an email obtained by KATU News. "Thanks to everyone for their excellent response. We'll be holding a debriefing about this soon and will share any learnings."