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Originally published August 15, 2009 at 12:26 PM | Page modified August 15, 2009 at 11:02 PM

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Man shot dead by police during struggle in Olympia hospital

A man who brought three handguns into Providence St. Peter Hospital was shot to death by an Olympia police officer early Saturday after he became unruly with the staff and wrestled with the officer, according to police.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A man who brought three handguns into Providence St. Peter Hospital was shot to death by an Olympia police officer early Saturday after he became unruly with the staff and wrestled with the officer, according to police.

The man has been identified as Joseph Leonard Burkett, 43, of Elma, according to the Thurston County Coroners Office.

Burkett, described as 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, was in the emergency room to be treated for a head injury. The emergency-room staff called 911 at 2:13 a.m. when Burkett became agitated, police say.

Officers confiscated two guns from him and stayed in the emergency room while the injury was treated. At about 4:15 a.m., as a medical test was being prepared, Burkett "became agitated and unruly" and produced a third gun, a police statement said. A police officer and Burkett "wrestled for the weapon. During the struggle, the officer fired one shot at the subject," police said.

The police statement and a hospital official did not discuss why the third gun wasn't discovered sooner.

The shooting occurred in a locked room within the emergency department that is separated from other patients, said Deborah Shawver, hospital spokeswoman. The hospital stations an unarmed security guard at the emergency-room entrance, she said.

Shawver said that to her knowledge, there had not been a shooting inside the hospital since it opened in 1887. The incident will cause a "thorough review" of security measures, she said.

Burkett had just been released at midday Friday from the Grays Harbor County Jail, where he spent nine hours after being arrested on a disorderly-conduct charge by Elma police, jail records said. In 2002, he was arrested in Pierce County for allegedly destroying his mother's furniture after she locked away his guns, a court file said; he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, then underwent alcohol and mental-health treatment.

The police officer, a 13-year department veteran, has been placed on administrative leave, standard in such cases. A Thurston County incident team, which is to include the State Patrol, will investigate.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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