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Long leads team coverage of fatal hospital shooting

Police officers with the Forensics Unit leave Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York after a gunman opened fire, killing a doctor and wounding six others before taking his own life, June 30, 2017. The gunman, identified as Dr. Henry Bello, was forced out of a hospital two years earlier over sexual harassment allegations. He returned with an assault rifle hidden beneath his lab coat law enforcement officials said. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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New York City police reporter Colleen Long was taking the elevator at police headquarters on a quiet Friday afternoon before the extended Fourth of July weekend when she overheard a couple of patrol officers suddenly talking with alarm. “Oh my God,” one of them said. “Something’s going on at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. I think an active shooter.”

Long got off on the next stop, on the seventh floor, and immediately started calling a source as she took the stairs down to her office in the second-floor press room, known as “the shack.” By the time she got to the desk, she had enough information to call the New York City bureau with a barebones APNewsAlert: “NEW YORK (AP) — Police are responding to a report of shots fired inside a New York City hospital.”

So began a bureau-wide reporting effort on a story that would unfold in unusual detail, even in the long litany of American gun violence: A doctor, forced out of a hospital two years earlier over sexual harassment allegations, returned with an assault rifle hidden beneath his lab coat and opened fire, killing a fellow doctor and wounding six other people as hospital staffers and patients cowered in terror. The gunman then tried to set himself on fire before finally turning the gun on himself.

Long confirmed that one of the shooting victims had died, a key break that put the AP out front for more than 20 minutes.

But in the early minutes, Long knew none of that. She started calling every source she could think of until she found one who was making his way to the scene. That source then started calling her back with five-second-long bursts of information. … The gunman is a doctor. … He hid a rifle under his lab coat. … Multiple people shot. … The gunman is dead.

Long later confirmed on multiple sources that one of the shooting victims had died, a key break that put the AP out front for more than 20 minutes. Several New York City TV stations said flat out “we haven’t confirmed this ourselves but The Associated Press is reporting …” Competitors didn’t have the death confirmed until the mayor held a news conference.

But Long wasn’t done. She also quickly obtained the shooter’s arrest history on sexual abuse and other charges,his education and work records, and landed an interview with the shooter’s former lawyer.

This was an all-format tour de force breaking news performance that led all major news sites.

Meanwhile, federal courts reporter Larry Neumeister scrambled to the scene and got a great interview with a blood-splattered surgeon who told the story of treating some of the wounded while the gunman was still on the loose. Karen Matthews began cold-calling the killer’s colleagues and got a good interview with a fellow doctor who said he had had been threatened by the man and described him as aggressive. Videographer Ted Shaffrey scored a gripping interview with a patient who thought he was going to be die. And photographer Mary Altaffer took of a photo of a distraught patient evacuating the hospital that landed on the front of the next day’s New York Times.

In short, it was a tour de force breaking news performance that led all major news sites,landed the No. 1 spot on AP Mobile and topped both Teletrax and NewsWhip use Friday night into Saturday morning,with over 1,160 uses of the mainbar alone.

For leading a team effort that put the AP out front and kept us there, Colleen Long wins the Best of the States Award and the $300 that goes with it for the second week in a row.

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