In February of 2015, Dr. Henry Bello resigned in lieu of being dismissed for sending threatening emails to a fellow physician at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.
He reportedly departed threatening to return and exact bloody revenge.
A background check would have shown that he had a criminal record that included an arrest for attempted burglary at 5:10 a.m. on April 23, 2003, when he kicked in the door to an ex-girlfriend’s apartment on Buchanan Place in the Bronx.
He was also that rare doctor with an arrest for fare evasion in the New York City subway, this at 5 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2003.
He was also arrested for sexual abuse, forcible touching, and unlawful imprisonment at 5:15 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2004, on Bond Street in Manhattan. He is said to have grabbed the victim’s crotch with one hand while he lifted her in the air with his other. He began dragging her away.
“You’re coming with me,” he told the victim according to her subsequent account to the police.
The disposition of the cases is not immediately clear, but whatever the various outcomes, he was still able to obtain what he had under a white doctor’s coat on Friday afternoon, when he returned to the hospital where he had once been a candidate for a residency in family medicine.
Bello ascended to the 16th floor and asked for the doctor who had been the subject of his threatening emails two years before. He was told the doctor was not there at the moment.
Bello thereupon produced an Anderson Arms AR-15 assault rifle with a standard magazine. He began firing at the nurse’s station and then into an adjoining office.
“He’s aiming for and aiming at doctors,” a police official reports.
Bellow then took out a Gatorade bottle that he had filled with gasoline. He used it to set a fire before heading up to the 17th floor. He there encountered a female doctor. He shot her multiple times.
Another female doctor who had gotten to the 17th floor moments before took refuge and escaped his notice. She would later speak of the threats Bellow had uttered two years before about returning to kill.
Now having done as he promised, Bello produced a second Gatorade bottle filled with gasoline. He sought to set either himself or his mortally wounded female colleague on fire.
The two floors filled with smoke, triggering the fire alarms. The sprinkler system came on and did a good job of dousing the flames.
In the meantime, a woman who had taken cover on hearing the shots called 911. She whispered so as not to attract the gunman’s attention, saying she had not actually seen him but could hear the shots.
A subsequent caller had glimpsed him. Her description went out over the police radio.
“Male black, six feet tall, slim, white coat possible carrying an M-16 rifle.”
At the mention of the weapon, the NYPD aviation unit was instructed to be cautious. And cops were alerted that the danger area extended for three blocks around the building.
By then, cops from the 44th precinct had arrived at the hospital and charged unhesitatingly inside with guns drawn. They entered a realm where figures in every direction were wearing white coats, one of them armed with an assault rifle.
Soon, a swarm of cops from specialized units arrived. All the cops followed the standing NYPD principle when it comes to an active shooter.
“Go immediately toward the gunfire and try to make contact with the threat,” a police official summarizes.
The cops ascended to the smoke-filled 16th floor. There they encountered more figures in white coats, some on the floor, bleeding. A team of paramedics was already carrying one of the grievously wounded victims down flight after flight to the trauma team on the first floor. An emergency room nurse would describe repeatedly looking over her shoulder for the gunman as she treated a woman who had a bullet wound to the neck.
When the cops entered the 17th floor, they found the female doctor dead from her wounds. Bello was on the floor in his white coat with the rifle he had managed to obtain despite all the signs that he was not someone who should be allowed anywhere near a firearm. He had fatally shot himself.
A supervisor bent over the body, reached with a gloved hand into Bello’s pocket and extracted an identification card. He held it up and a cop took a photo of it with a smartphone so the investigation into the background of the no-longer-active shooter could begin.
The air conditioning in the hospital had been shut off because of the fire and the cops returned to the street drenched in sweat. A chief marveled aloud at the bravery of all the nurses and doctors who had stayed with their patients despite the danger.
“It’s incredible!” the chief said.
Some of the patients were at the windows of what is supposed to be a zone ruled by a vow to first and foremost do no harm. They gazed down at the mass of emergency vehicles and cops and firefighters. A woman in a fourth-floor window would be seen taking a little girl with pigtails up in her arms.
As the Fourth of July weekend began, five of the six wounded were in critical condition. Federal ATF agents were tracing the assault rifle, just as other ATF agents had traced the assault rifle used to shoot Majority Whip Steve Scalise in June and the assault rifle used to shoot two Chicago cops in May and so many other times.