‘We got gunshots’: 911 calls reveal horrifying moments inside Nashville hospital

911 calls obtained by WSMV 4 show the horror inside Ascension St. Thomas Midtown hospital as a gunman fired shots in one of the stairwells.
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 4:38 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Newly released 911 calls reveal just how terrifying it was for hospital staff and patients after a gunman snuck into a Nashville hospital and opened fire.

Police were dispatched to Ascension St. Thomas Midtown Hospital on Church Street early Saturday morning. Security had reported they heard at least two gunshots coming from an emergency room stairwell.

“We got gunshots ... in the ER department,” one hospital employee told a 911 dispatcher. In the background, other hospital employees can be heard frantically shouting for someone to call 911. “We just heard multiple gunshots in the stairwell.”

Police say 33-year-old Nicholas Zaayenga had entered the hospital with a loaded weapon and additional ammunition. He managed to sneak past security, entered a stairwell and began firing a gun.

“Do you know if anybody’s injured?” the dispatcher asked.

“No, not yet,” the employee said. “We’re trying to get all of our employees away from it — the stairway.”

Luckily, police said Zaayenga had gotten locked in the stairwell upon entry. Police entered the hospital and found him on the fourth floor, where he peacefully surrendered. Olivia Robinson, a nursing student who works at Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown, told WSMV 4 this week it’s terrifying knowing how much worse the shooting could have been.

“We’re very thankful no one was hurt. We’ve been hearing about these shootings a lot,” Robinson said. “This is our workplace. This is where we come every single day and it’s like, you never think it’s going to be you until it is, and you’re put in that situation. It’s just scary.”

Fear could be heard in the voice of another 911 caller’s voice as he urged the dispatcher to send help.

“We just heard multiple gunshots in the hospital,” the caller said. “I’m an employee ... We might need EMS en route. Security confirmed multiple gunshots.”

In response to the shooting, Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown released this statement:

“The safety of our associates, providers, patients and visitors is always our highest priority. We are so proud of the prompt response by our associates and the Metro Nashville Police Department. We are most thankful for the safety of all involved. Our campus leaders have visited hospital departments to answer associates’ questions, concerns and provide support. We are fully cooperating with Metro Nashville Police Department in their investigation.”

Zaayenga has been charged with reckless endangerment, vandalism, possession of a weapon, and criminal trespassing.