A man arrested over a double shooting inside Nepean Hospital's emergency department overnight was allegedly holding a pair of scissors to the throat of a female doctor before he shot a police officer and a security guard, a witness says.
Senior Constable Luke Warburton, from the NSW Police Dog Squad, was shot in the upper thigh and was critically injured and the security guard was shot in the leg in front of terrified patients and staff at the busy hospital in Kingswood, in Sydney's west, just before 10.30pm on Tuesday.
Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said the gun used in the shooting belonged to the police officer, who had rushed to the hospital on Derby Street after police received a triple zero call about a disturbance there.
"All that we know at the moment is that there were reports of an incident and police responded with security," Deputy Commissioner Burn said.
"There was a struggle, and during that struggle the police officer did lose control of his firearm. There were then a number of shots fired and the circumstances and the exact detail will now form part of that critical incident investigation."
A patient at the hospital dragged Senior Constable Warburton, 38, away from the gunman after he was shot, according to reports.
Senior Constable Warburton, who was involved in the arrest of one of Australia's most notorious fugitives, Malcolm Naden, in 2012, remained in the hospital's intensive care unit on Wednesday morning.
Police arrested a 39-year-old man at the hospital over the shooting, and he was being questioned at Penrith police station on Wednesday morning. No charges had been laid.
Senior Constable Warburton underwent surgery overnight, and Deputy Commissioner Burn said he was in a critical but stable condition early on Wednesday. The injured security guard was in a stable condition, she said.
A witness who was in the emergency department at the time told The Daily Telegraph that the alleged offender was holding a pair of scissors to the throat of a female doctor and was screaming when the officer and security guard arrived.
"A guy was screaming and shouting and holding a [weapon] to a woman's throat, we couldn't make out what he was saying," said the man, who did not want to be identified.
He said the patient took the officer's gun during a scuffle on the floor and fired two shots.
"He has taken [the gun] out of the copper's holster during the scuffle on the ground," the witness said.
"I ran over to the copper. I grabbed the copper and dragged him backwards.
"We threw him on a bed. The security guard wore one in the left [knee] … the police officer in the left thigh."
He said nurses were trying to get everyone away from the gunman.
Deputy Commissioner Burn went to the hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and spoke to the injured officer's family.
"For everybody involved, this is a very traumatic situation," she said.
"At the moment my thoughts are with the officer, my thoughts are with the officer's family.
"I have spoken to his wife, his wife is at the hospital."
Police have not confirmed a report that the man in custody following the shooting had been arrested earlier on Tuesday for alleged break-and-enter offences, before he was released on bail.
At the time of Naden's arrest in 2012, Senior Constable Warburton spoke to the Blue Mountains Gazette and praised the actions of his dog, Chuck, who had bitten Naden on the leg to stop him from escaping.
Naden had been on the run for nearly seven years when police from the Tactical Operations Unit and the dog squad captured him in a remote area west of Gloucester in the upper Hunter.
"We'd surrounded the hut, the other two police dogs were near the front and Naden came running out the back entrance where I was," he told the Blue Mountains Gazette.
"TOU officers were there and proceeded to capture and arrest him [Naden] and in the process Chuck was able to assist - he just came in and bit Naden on the leg to prevent any chance of him escaping.
"I think he [Chuck] knew something significant had gone on.
"He did a good job and I gave him an extra bone that night."
Naden, a former abattoir worker, is serving a life sentence for the murder of one cousin, Lateesha Nolan, and the partner of another, Kristy Scholes.
Gerard Hayes, the secretary of the Health Services Union, said security officers within the NSW health system were faced with violence daily.
"[The shooting] is an outrageous situation. This is an extreme example, of course, but security officers within health are putting up with violent activity every day," he said.
Mr Hayes said a surge in the use of the drug "ice", a form of crystallised methamphetamine, was particularly concerning for healthcare workers. Police have not said whether the man arrested after Tuesday night's shooting was suspected of taking any drugs.
"The ice situation is really getting out of control, particularly in emergency departments. We're seeing a growing number of violence issues, particularly related to ice. This needs to be addressed," Mr Hayes said.
He also said hospital security officers had very little power to restrain or detain people.
"They have effectively no equipment to be able to restrain anybody. They're there to protect, but they need to be able to do more than say 'Please don't do that,' " Mr Hayes said.
A spokeswoman for Nepean Hospital said ambulances were being diverted to other emergency departments on Tuesday night while a police investigation was conducted.
- with Josephine Tovey