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Jefferson Hospital shooting suspect will be charged with murder, police say, but his motive is still a mystery

Stacey Hayes, 55, is expected to be charged for the killing of Anrae James, 43. He also is expected to face four counts of attempted murder and related counts for firing at officers after fleeing.

Philadelphia police outside Jefferson Hospital early Monday morning. Anrae Thomas, a nursing assistant, was killed by a coworker, and two Philadelphia police officers were shot in a subsequent gun battle with the suspect.
Philadelphia police outside Jefferson Hospital early Monday morning. Anrae Thomas, a nursing assistant, was killed by a coworker, and two Philadelphia police officers were shot in a subsequent gun battle with the suspect.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

The man suspected of fatally shooting a coworker at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital early Monday and then starting a shootout with police after fleeing the scene will be charged with murder and related crimes, authorities said Tuesday.

Stacey Hayes, 55, is expected to be charged in the death of Anrae James, 43, a certified nursing assistant who was killed shortly after midnight on the ninth floor of the hospital, said Chief Inspector Frank Vanore.

Hayes also is expected to face four counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and related charges for firing at officers in the city’s Parkside section after he drove a U-Haul truck from the murder scene, Vanore said. Two officers were wounded in the gun battle, according to police, and one remained hospitalized Tuesday because of gunshot wounds to his arm.

The investigation into the episode is ongoing. Vanore said detectives were still gathering evidence in the hospital shooting and seeking to learn more about why Hayes had targeted James.

“We have not discovered any hostility between them, or any issues that we can point out,” Vanore said.

It was not clear Tuesday if Hayes had retained an attorney for his expected charges. He remained hospitalized after being shot by police during the shootout on the 4100 block of Parkside Avenue, police said.

Attempts by Inquirer reporters to reach his relatives Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful; someone who answered the door Tuesday at one of his addresses declined to comment. And neighbors at three addresses connected to him said they didn’t know him.

James’ father, William, said Tuesday afternoon that he hadn’t heard that murder charges in the death of his son were imminent. The elder James has described his son as a hardworking father of three who loved his family and worked two jobs as a certified nursing assistant and part time as a barber to provide for his children. He said he had no idea why anyone would want to harm his son and was stunned to learn that he had been killed at the hospital.

Court documents obtained by The Inquirer on Tuesday raised further questions about another mystery connected to the incident: Hayes’ access to firearms.

Earlier this year, he successfully petitioned a city judge to return three guns to him — a handgun, a shotgun, and an AR-15 rifle. Authorities had seized the weapons in August 2020, Hayes wrote in a petition to get the guns back. But he did not specify why they were taken in the first place.

Under state law, authorities can require someone give up legally purchased firearms if they suspect the weapons were used in a crime. They can also seize weapons from a person who is committed to a behavioral health facility or is the subject of an active protection-from-abuse order.

There is no record of the confiscation in Hayes’ case being connected to criminal charges or to a protection-from-abuse order.

The Police Department declined to comment on its role in the apprehension of his weapons.

A brief transcript of Hayes’ appearance in court in connection with the matter earlier this year, on June 3, also doesn’t shed light on why the guns were seized. The transcript shows that a city prosecutor didn’t object to his request to get his guns back. And Common Pleas Court Judge Crystal Bryant-Powell approved it.

Bryant-Powell declined to comment on the case, as did Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office.

In general, Roh said, when someone files for the return of a firearm, prosecutors review the petitioner’s criminal record, submit their information for a background check through the State Police, and check for active investigations involving the gun in question.

Police have not said if the guns Hayes is accused of using Monday were the same ones he regained possession of in June.

Vanore said surveillance video of the killing at Jefferson showed Hayes getting off an elevator, “walking directly toward” James, who was seated at a workstation, and opening fire with what appeared to be a handgun.

It was not clear if Hayes was supposed to have been working at the time, Vanore said, but detectives believe he used an employee entrance to head to the ninth floor before committing the crime.

Hayes left the hospital after the shooting in a U-Haul truck, police said. An hour later, around 1:25 a.m., a passerby flagged down officers in Parkside, near the School of the Future, saying a man in scrubs nearby had a gun and was possibly firing shots in the air, said Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.

Police said Tuesday that four officers approached Hayes and told him to drop his gun, but instead he opened fire on them. The officers fired back, police said, and Hayes — who was wearing a bulletproof vest and had several guns, including a semiautomatic assault rifle — was struck in the upper body and neck.

Police have not identified the officers who opened fire, except to say they were assigned to the 16th District.

It was not clear when Hayes might be arraigned on his impending charges. He was expected to be held without bail because of the murder charge.

Staff writers William Bender, Barbara Laker, and Marina Affo contributed to this article.