Colorado nurse sues after being a 'hostage' in armed gunman drill

By Keith Coffman

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado woman is suing the nursing home where she worked and local police for allegedly not telling her that a gunman who held her hostage was a police officer conducting a safety drill, court documents show.

Michelle Meeker claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver that she was terrorized when an armed man confronted her last October at the Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale, Colorado.

Meeker, a registered nurse, was tending to one of her long-term patients when another employee told her to see what a "suspicious" man sitting in the center's day room wanted, according to the complaint.

The man then showed her a handgun he had in his waistband and ordered her into an unoccupied room.

Although the man told her in hushed tones that he was a police officer, the lawsuit says, Meeker was not informed beforehand of the drill and was unsure whether he was telling the truth.

"In a desperate plea for her life, she begged the man not to hurt her, telling him she had a young child," the complaint says.

The officer, the Carbondale police chief, and executives of the center are named as defendants.

Robert Baker, the executive director of the center and one of the named defendants, said in a statement that the facility routinely conducts safety, fire, and natural disaster drills for its residents.

"Unfortunately, the training exercise alarmed some at our facility," Baker said.

The attorney representing the police department, Thomas Rice, said Heritage approached them to help with the drill, and police told the facility to inform workers of the upcoming scenario.

"I don't know whether Heritage notified Ms. Meeker, but it wasn't the town's responsibility," he said.

Rice said the displayed gun was not real, and that the officer offered to show Meeker his identification.

Meeker, who resigned shortly after the incident, is seeking unspecified monetary damages for economic loss, mental and emotional distress, and medical bills.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)