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AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The man charged in the suspected mercy killing of his wife at a hospital intensive care unit asked the doctor who confronted him, “Please tell me she’s dead,” the doctor said Monday.
In his first interview about the shooting at Akron General Medical Center, Dr. Michael A. Passero Jr. said he repeatedly asked John Wise, 66, to give up his weapon after the shooting.
“He said to me, ‘Please tell me she’s dead,”’ Passero said. After checking the monitors, Passero said, “I said quietly, ‘she’s not dead.”’
The discussion over giving up the weapon was interrupted when the victim, 65-year-old Barbara Wise, gasped for air. According to Passero, John Wise then said: “Oh, God, she’s still alive. How can she still be alive?”
According to Passero, Wise sat in a chair next to his wife, with the doctor on the other side asking for the weapon. “He had the gun in his hand but he wasn’t threatening anyone,” Passero said.
Wise was charged with aggravated murder in the Aug. 4 shooting. His wife died one day later.
A friend said Barbara Wise had been disabled by a stroke and Wise’s attorney said his client had always acted toward his wife with love.
Passero, 37, rushed to the scene from several rooms away when he heard a popping sound, thinking it might be an equipment problem.
Passero knew Barbara Wise and concluded the big man with the white beard down to his chest was her husband, then noticed he was holding a gun.
Wise began fumbling with the weapon, apparently trying to get it unjammed. Passero repeatedly asked Wise to surrender the weapon, reaching out but not trying to force his hand.
“Sir, I need to have you give me the gun,” Passero told him. “I can fix this. I can take care of everything. Please give me the gun.”
Passero said he wasn’t immediately aware when he entered the room on a quiet Saturday evening that Mrs. Wise had been shot. But he quickly spotted the weapon and blood on her pillow.
Passero said he was afraid, not for himself, but that Wise might shoot his wife again.
“I was trying to keep my voice calm,” said Passero, a Barrington, R. I., native who was interviewed in a hospital conference room, dressed in a white medical jacket over an open-collar print dress shirt and slacks. “What I did, I did on instincts.”
Wise never surrendered the weapon to the doctor and within minutes security officers entered, forcefully ordered him to drop the weapon and then tackled him, Passero said. City police quickly swarmed over the hospital.
Passero said he felt running from the scene might make the situation worse. “I just felt that I needed to talk to him, calm him down,” he said.
Passero said several staff members followed him into the room but quickly backed off when they saw the weapon. After Wise was arrested and staff members went to Barbara Wise’s aid, Passero briefed police, went back to finish his 12-hour overnight and said he slept soundly when he got home.
Wise is due back in court Aug. 22. He has not entered a plea but has hired a high-profile Akron defense attorney.
Barbara Wise, who apparently had been in good health, suffered triple cerebral aneurysms on July 28 and had been left unable to speak, family friend Terry Henderson told The AP. He said he drove John Wise to visit her at the hospital three times in the days before she was shot and he seemed to be holding up well.
Henderson said he is certain that Wise intended to kill his wife and then himself. Wise said the couple had discussed not watching to languish in a nursing home, Henderson said.
A woman who identified herself as a nurse told a 911 dispatcher that people in the ICU heard a popping sound and ran to Barbara Wise’s room where they saw a man dressed in black.
“We saw him sitting there with a gun. He was, like, loading it,” she said.
By THOMAS J. SHEERAN