‘Terror, Panic’: 50 Cops Show Up to Detroit Hospital After Black Worker Was Asked to Play Gunman In Unannounced Active Shooter Drill. He Ended Up In Handcuffs ‘Scared for His Life.’

A Black employee for a Detroit psychiatric hospital for children is suing the facility after he was asked to play a gunman in an active shooter drill that no one knew about and then detained by police.

Brandon Woodruff was asked by his supervisor to participate in an active shooter drill that took place on Dec. 21, 2022. The 32-year-old had only been working at the Hawthorn Center for five months.

He told Detroit Free Press that neither the patients, local police, nor many of the staff were informed of the active shooter drill. He also added that he was uneasy about the idea but agreed anyway.

(Left) Brandon Woodruff speaking with Detroit Free Press in an interview; (right) Woodruff being detained by police after the drill. (Photo: Daily Mail U.S./Twitter)

Documents from one lawsuit filed over the incident described how the incident unfolded that day for people at Hawthorn who weren’t told about the drill:

On December 21, 2022, shortly after 10 am, a frantic call went out over the Hawthorn Center paging system announcing for everyone to hear—children and employees alike—that there were active intruders in the building. Then a second frantic announcement came through the overhead system: “two active intruders, one Caucasian male, one African American male, armed with AR 15s, shots fired.”

When Woodruff appeared with a fake rifle on the day of the drill, many patients panicked and dialed 911. The calls caused 50 officers to race to the hospital in tactical gear and arrest Woodruff.

Related: ‘Fears of a Tainted Jury’: Prosecutors In Second-Degree Murder Trial of Maryland Cop Delays Justice for the Family of Black Man Shot Six Times While He Was Handcuffed

Woodruff said he saw a woman running for “her dear life,” according to Detroit Free Press.

“It was one particular room that drew me off guard, one of the living areas. It was the way it was barricaded with mattresses and chairs,” said Woodruff to Detroit Free Press. “I had an uneasy feeling like maybe these kids think this is real. I’m gonna like leave them alone in this area.”

When officers arrived from nearby Northville and Livonia townships along with Michigan State Police, they ordered two people in front of the building, one being Woodruff, to lie on the ground after they told officers it was a drill.

Woodruff reportedly used his smartwatch to call his wife while he was face down on the ground, and she recorded the entire encounter. The lawsuit stated he feared for his life and wanted to make sure his wife heard his last moments.

“Although the terror, panic and mortification of those trapped inside Hawthorn was real, there were no intruders, there were no AR-15s, and there were no ‘shots fired,'” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit continued, “Rather, the State of Michigan created the terror and panic at Hawthorn Center as an ill-conceived ‘safety’ drill. Even the scores of law enforcement who responded to the frantic 911 calls from those trapped inside the building thought there were intruders with military style weapons; they too were preparing to risk their lives to save the children and the adults who were trying to protect them.”

Woodruff’s lawsuit comes a month after families and employees filed two class-action lawsuits, according to Click on Detroit. One lawsuit is against the Department of Health and Human Services and the other is a claim against hospital officials who organized the drill.

His attorneys say he “heard the safeties come off the police officers’ weapons” while he was on the ground.

“Woodruff did his best to comply with the anxious, sometimes conflicting orders from the police officers, getting down on the ground, then moving slowly towards them with his hands raised, and finally lifting his shirt and turning around several times to show that he was not armed,” the lawsuit states.

The attorneys said that the drill was only announced to supervisors.

About seven hours after the debacle, hospital director Victoria Petti emailed the staff to explain what happened and to apologize for “the stress.”

The hospital typically has about 50 children and 200 at the center, the lawsuit says.

Petti wrote in the email, “This morning an active intruder alert was announced on the overhead system. Although this was a drill it was not announced as such. Understandably, many in the building became frightened and some contacted 911.”

“A tactical team responded to these calls and arrived armed and in full gear. I want to convey how deeply sorry I am that this occurred and for the stress it’s caused. I spoke with many of you today and hope to reach others in the next few days. I know this has touched you all in different ways.”

According to Click on Detroit, two former employees spoke anonymously about the chaotic scene that day.

“I couldn’t stop crying, tears rolling down my eyes, I couldn’t stop shaking, I was trembling uncontrollably,” one of the employees said. “It’s created anxiety, trouble sleeping. Every time this is mentioned, it’s like reliving the event.”

David Horeine, whose son was a patient at the hospital during the drill, said they found out about the drill on Facebook.

“We were never notified by the hospital about what happened at all on that day,” said Horeine to Click on Detroit.

Another anonymous employee described the scene at the hospital after the drill.

“A lot of the children actually had to be sedated, so they had to call emergency for outside hospitals,” the employee said to Click on Detroit.

Woodruff’s attorneys said he was denied a request for mental health treatment in March.

“There was no transparency about the aftermath of this,” Woodruff said. “I feel they don’t care about what happened and they’re trying to minimize it and sweep it under the rug ’cause they know we are about to leave this building.”

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