Police have been ordered to investigate a hospital security drill in which masked men with guns stormed an emergency room.
The investigation was ordered after four nurses tried to file criminal complaints in the case.
The nurses tried to have a magistrate issue criminal complaints in the Jan. 25 mock assault at Memorial Hospital of Martinsville (Va.) and Henry County after police had declined to investigate it and the local prosecutor refused to seek charges.
The women said the drill, in which real but unloaded guns were pointed at them, so traumatized them that they are seeking psychiatric help.
The nurses, who had not been warned of the drill, were ordered at gunpoint to bring the men drugs. They were unaware the event was staged until the men removed the masks after about five minutes and explained.
"I don't think you can point a gun at someone's head and get away with it," said attorney James Shortt, who represents three of the nurses.
Martinsville Commonwealth's Attorney J. Randolph Smith Jr. said his office did not investigate the incident because the women did not take their case first to the police department.
"I was hard pressed to see any criminal intent," Smith said.
Now that the magistrate has ordered police to investigate, Smith again will have to decide whether charges are warranted, said Lt. Burt Sharp, head of the police department's criminal investigations.
The drill was conducted despite warnings from Martinsville's police chief that it was a bad idea that could lead to gunfire.
The event also was condemned as inappropriate and dangerous in a memo by Philip Levin, M.D., an emergency room doctor, to hospital administrators.
During the incident, a 6-year-old boy having an asthma attack was turned away from the emergency room, and an elderly patient was so shocked by the gunmen that his pulse went "sky-high," according to Levin's report.
Hospital officials defended the drill by saying the doctor on duty, the nursing supervisor and the hospital's armed security guards had been told about it and had the authority to stop it at any time. Nurses and patients, however, were not told.