Shooting at New Jersey Nursing Facility Leaves Two Dead

De-escalation can be a crucial part of preventing incidents from turning violent.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

Nursing homes house some of the most vulnerable patients. Security and safety are important, as the patients must be protected from all kinds of danger. Equally as important is the immediate response to these dangers in order to prevent or de-escalate them. Understandably, dangers are often seen as external and intrusive. 

However, how can these facilities prevent danger arising from within? 

One recent case of this, according to, occurred at a nursing facility in Hackensack, New Jersey. Two elders were discovered dead after a shooting that occurred on the morning of Saturday, July 15. The two were residents of the nursing facility. A spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office says the two are believed to have been a married couple and that this shooting may be a domestic incident. As for the incident, investigations are underway. 

A potential approach for this sort of incident is de-escalation. This involves working with the antagonizing party and the receiving party to calm heated incidents down, so that they do not become violent. This tactic is one of many, and it requires proper training and knowledge to execute. But who on staff should be trained in de-escalation? 

One way is by having security personnel or facility police on staff trained in it. While police are an appropriate resource for violent incidents, some within the facilities may feel they are overly used. Their presence may also raise tensions between the parties involved in an incident.  

An alternative approach would be to use mental health professionals, which would likely fall outside of facility management responsibility.  

This sort of approach was considered and proposed in San Francisco back in 2021. City health officials had found that police may not always be the best solution for their security problems. The specific facility this was proposed for was the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. That proposal aimed to reduce the number of deputies at the hospital and use the cost savings to expand its existing team of healthcare professionals who would use de-escalation tactics. 

Mental health professionals, as proposed in the San Francisco case, may be better equipped to understand and deescalate these tense situations. They are trained to handle and respond to non-violent situations and to diffuse them. They are also trained to deal with any emotional or behavioral problems the involved parties may have. Whereas law enforcement is more ideal for situations that do turn violent and need stronger intervention. 

In cases of a domestic dispute, as believed to be the case for the New Jersey incident, de-escalation may be an appropriate strategy to get both parties to cool off and reduce the chances of a violent escalation. After these incidents, the involved parties could receive some form of counseling so that any future events have less of a risk of turning violent.  

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market.  

July 19, 2023

Topic Area: Safety , Security

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