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Thursday, June 29, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Two UW doctors killed in shooting

Seattle Times staff reporter

A top pathologist at the University of Washington Medical Center was shot and killed in his private office on campus yesterday afternoon by one of his residents, who had been told he was about to be terminated, university officials said.

The resident had earlier raised concern in the pathology department by talking of buying a gun, officials said.

After shooting Dr. Rodger Haggitt, resident physician Dr. Jian Chen apparently turned the gun on himself, university police said.

Investigators are looking into reports that "there had been concern about Dr. Chen possibly obtaining a gun and that that information had been given to the UW's attorney generals and to the UW police," said university police Capt. Randy Stegmeier.

Medical-center spokesman Walter Neary would not comment on those reports last night.

Employees in the pathology department heard gunfire shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday and called police, who found the bodies of Haggitt, 57, and Chen, reported to be in his 30s, in Haggitt's office on the second floor of the BB wing of the complex.

"When we entered the office, it was apparent the subjects were deceased," Stegmeier said.

Stegmeier said employees working near Haggitt's office reported hearing loud voices, then two or three shots fired about 3:45 p.m.

"Information we have from witnesses and the crime scene is consistent with murder-suicide," Stegmeier said during a news-media briefing less than two hours after the shooting.

He said police recovered a handgun from the scene.

Seattle police homicide detectives were called to help with the investigation.

A medical-center spokesman said Chen had recently been told his contract would not be renewed. Haggitt, director of anatomic pathology, was Chen's supervisor, the spokesman said.

According to witnesses, Chen, who lived in the University District, arrived at Haggitt's office for a scheduled appointment and locked the door after entering.

Stegmeier said witnesses reported hearing one shot, "then a few minutes later another shot or two were fired."

When police arrived, officers cordoned off the room, Stegmeier said, then attempted to reach someone by phone. When there was no response, police waited about 25 minutes, then entered the office to find both men dead, he said.

Chen had been at the University of Mississippi for two or three years before coming to the University of Washington a year ago. Police said he was believed to be from Taiwan, with no known relatives in the Seattle area.

The complex is part of the sprawling UW Medical Center at the south end of campus. The building was not evacuated or placed in lockdown, Stegmeier said.

Though Haggitt's office is in the medical center, the shootings took place in a confined area near the east end, away from patient-care areas, said Neary.

"The hospital remains a safe place to be and patient care continues," Neary said.

Neary said counselors were available for staff members.

Libby Sando, administrative manager for graduate medical education at the medical center, said there were 22 residents and six fellows in the pathology department.

A residency in pathology lasts four or five years, depending on the student's focus. And like many residencies, it can be stressful and competitive, said Sando. People cracking or lashing out as a result of such pressure is "always a concern in a stressful occupation," she said.

"It's a tragedy," said Stegmeier. "Two highly educated men now gone."

Despite the deaths, business went on as usual throughout the rest of the hospital. Just a few feet from the police tape at the crime scene, people sat in the radiology-department waiting room next to a large, bubbling fish tank.

"It's a really sad thing to happen inside a hospital," said Karen Sanderlin, 63, from Republic, Ferry County, who was visiting a patient in radiology. She entered the building just after the shooting occurred. "Coming from the country, I could smell the gunpowder," Sanderline said. "I could smell it, and it's sad to smell it in the city."

William Maxwell, a staff member in the laboratory-medicine department, said he was a bit shaken by the shootings.

"You wouldn't expect it," he said. "Nobody is happy."

Eric Larson, medical director for the hospital, said it was shocking to have such violence happen inside a space devoted to healing.

"It feels like a violation of a safe space," he said.

In the past two decades, police have investigated at least three other homicides on the UW campus.

In 1980, Roger Cutsinger, 21, was convicted of fatally shooting his roommate and lover, Larry Duerkson, 29, on campus for a $500,000 insurance policy in which he was the named beneficiary.

In 1984, a 38-year-old man, who was not diabetic, died of an insulin-induced coma at the medical center.

Police and medical examiners said Robert Rux of West Seattle, who had been admitted to the intensive-care unit with respiratory failure, was killed by an unnecessary insulin injection. His death, which was ruled a homicide, was never solved.

In 1990, Azizolla Mazooni, 25, of Iran was found guilty of shooting his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend, Marjan Mohseninia, and a male friend of hers, Ebrahim Sharif-Kashani, on campus. He told police he had hired a private detective to track down his ex-girlfriend and then shot her and her friend in a jealous rage.

Seattle Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge contributed to this report.

Charles E. Brown's phone message number is 206-464-2206. His e-mail address is cbrown@seattletimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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