UPDATE 3: Victims & suspect in Hutcheson shooting named; suspect in court
FORT OGLETHORPE, GA. (WRCB)-- The GBI continues to investigate a shooting that killed two people at Erlanger at Hutcheson Medical Center.
Friday night, a man pulled out a gun shooting his estranged wife and his mother-in-law. Investigators identify his wife as 56-year-old Mary Benson his mother-in-law as 77-year-old Charlotte Johnson. Neither survived their injuries. The three were visiting a family member in the ICU at Hutcheson Hospital when the shooting happened.
Police tell Channel 3 59-year-old James Benson told his wife and mother-in-law "they'd be sorry" before he shot and killed them inside a crowded waiting room.
Benson is a security guard from Chattanooga and had been arguing with his wife earlier in the week. He has no criminal record and no history of domestic violence.
A magistrate did not set bond at his first court appearance Saturday. She said the Superior Court will do that.
Right now, as a precaution, Benson is on suicide watch.
Nearly 100 police officers from at least four different agencies swarmed Hutcheson after the shooting happened. We are shedding new light on the moments before the shooting and ask police and hospital administrators if this shooting have been prevented.
Armed with a .38 caliber revolver, loaded with five bullets, 59-year-old James Benson walked in to the ICU waiting room at Hutcheson Medical Center, letting out all five shots.
"Apparently a heated argument broke out. He left, retrieved a weapon, came back and shot his mother-in-law first, and then turned his gun to his estranged wife and shot her," says Ft. Oglethorpe Police Chief David Eubanks.
His wife, 56-year-old Mary Benson died at the scene. His mother-in-law, 77-year-old Charlotte Johnson died in surgery after being air-lifted to Erlanger. Both were shot in the chest.
Police say Benson and his wife had been visiting another family member at the hospital throughout the week and it was not he first time they had been arguing.
"He had been there several times during the week, at one point he was asked to leave," says Eubanks.
Shortly after the shooting Benson drove himself to the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department and turned himself in. Channel 3 was there as police pulled the gun from his car.
"Apparently he was drinking a soda, approached the detective, said he needed to talk to him and he said, 'I'm who you're looking for.'"
"There was some planning that went into it. it wasn't like it exploded and happened all at once," says Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson.
Sheriff Wilson says Benson left the ICU, walked all the way across the hospital campus, went to his car, retrieved the gun, came back in the building with the gun hidden inside of his coat pocket. He walked all the way back the ICU and had plenty of time to decide whether or not he wanted to pull the trigger.
"Does that fit the definition of pre-meditation? I guess, I would assume it does in my book," says Wilson.
"You can not prevent an isolated incident," says Corky Jewel, board chairman for Hutcheson.
Jewell says the hospital has never had an incident like this before, but was fully prepared in its response, locking down the building. Four teams of law enforcement made sure it was secure.
He says the hospital already has unarmed security guards on duty 24/7 and has brought in extra security from Erlanger to ease the minds of staff, patients and visitors.
"Unfortunately we are as much victims as far as where it played out. It could have happened at a local business, at a restaurant or somewhere else like that," says Jewell.
Jewell says it is too soon to tell if they plan on changing any of their security procedures at Hutcheson, like screening visitors.
He says the hospital will have a briefing with staff on Monday to review the incident.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.