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Stony Brook emergency department employees call for improved security after bomb scare

Emergency department staff members at Stony Brook University

Emergency department staff members at Stony Brook University Hospital want better security after a June 9 bomb scare. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

More than 200 emergency department employees at Stony Brook University Hospital have signed onto a letter asking for safety upgrades, including metal detectors at entrances and armed security, after last week’s incident in which a Mastic Beach man walked into the building with a backpack containing homemade explosives and a cache of other weapons.

The emergency department workers, in the letter addressed to hospital CEO Carol A. Gomes on Monday, say they’ve unsuccessfully pleaded for increased security measures for years, and “considering three bombs recently made their way into our department, we feel that these requests are not only warranted, but necessary,” the letter states.

A hospital security guard called university police about 9 p.m. June 9 to report a suspicious man in the emergency department, authorities said.

Suffolk County police bomb squad officers determined later that night that the suspect’s backpack contained three explosive devices. Two floors, including the emergency room, were evacuated as a precaution, officials said.

The letter from the hospital workers, including doctors and nurses, said a major tragedy was averted last week but lax security measures contributed to the bomb-possessing suspect — identified by police as Robert Roden, 33, of Mastic Beach — making his way into the emergency department.

“An individual armed with bombs and a firearm should never have the ability to gain access to our facility. … The security in place was clearly ineffective and … we could have easily had a mass casualty incident.”

The workers want metal detectors installed at every entrance and one armed security officer or police officer on site at all times.

Stony Brook University officials said in a statement Tuesday afternoon: "Hospital leadership remains focused on and committed to improving security within the University Hospital. In fact, numerous improvements and significant investments have been, and continue to be made in Hospital security infrastructure. We will continue to explore additional opportunities to maintain a safe and secure environment for our employees, for our patients and for the community."

In a letter about safety concerns posted on a university website last Thursday, Gomes and other university officials pointed to recent security improvements at the hospital, including software upgrades to all camera systems, installation of cameras throughout the emergency department and panic devices placed at strategic locations.

 Roden’s backpack contained three explosive devices, each the size of a grenade with a fuse, police said. He also had other weapons, including a tomahawk knife, a BB gun, a pocket knife, and tactical vest loaded with magazines of 9 mm ammunition, officials said.

He was arraigned last week on multiple weapons charges, and criminal contempt. He was held on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond.

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