Witness describes 'bloodbath' at Encino hospital, says bystanders shut stabbing suspect in storage room

A man suspected of stabbing three people at Encino Hospital Medical Center is wheeled into an ambulance on Friday.
A man suspected of stabbing three people at Encino Hospital Medical Center is wheeled into an ambulance on Friday. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

When Parham Saadat saw a bloodied man outside Encino Hospital Medical Center, his first thought was that the man was a patient seeking treatment.

But then he realized the man was wearing scrubs, and there was no one around him rendering aid. Saadat and his coworker, who were leaving work at a nearby dental office, ran across the street to help the nurse.

“He tells us, ‘There's somebody inside, a patient who stabbed me,’” Saadat said. “‘And he’s stabbing other people inside.’”

The patient, whom police identified as Ashkan Amirsoleymani, 35, was taken into custody Friday night on suspicion of stabbing two nurses and a doctor. Police said he appeared to have entered the hospital under the guise of seeking treatment for an unspecified ailment. All three victims were hospitalized and stable Saturday, according to investigators.

Saadat and his colleague, Faraz Farahnik, of Encino Dental Smile, asked people in the hospital’s front reception area for towels to control the bleeding of the male nurse who had been stabbed, he said. “His guts were out,” he said. “He had a pretty bad slash.”

The man told them that the patient had said he had a gun, then pulled out a knife and stabbed him, Saadat said. They called for an ambulance and helped load the man onto a gurney, he said.

Someone then ran out of the hospital begging for help, saying there was a doctor who had also been wounded, he said.

Saadat and Farahnik entered to find a chaotic scene, he said. Police hadn’t yet arrived. “People were kind of confused about what to do,” he said.

“There was blood all over the floor, blood in the rooms, blood on the gurney the doctor was laying on,” he added. “It was a bloodbath.”

A tall man wearing a blue flannel shirt and holding a knife was calmly pacing around, he said. He entered a small room that appeared to be a storage area, and Saadat ran up behind him and closed the door, he said.

“A nurse came and helped me hold the door, and then a security guard came,” he said. “We asked them to hold the door closed.” The man did not try to push his way out but stood over a sink, possibly wiping his knife, he said.

“The guy wasn’t even reacting,” he said. “He was just standing in the room, his back toward the window of the door. I’m not really sure what he was doing. But it was definitely pretty creepy.”

Saadat and Farahnik then turned their attention to the doctor, who was lying down in the next room over, her black scrubs soaked with blood. They pressed towels to her chest, under her ribcage. Another victim was sitting in a wheelchair and appeared to have been stabbed in the leg, although her injuries did not seem as severe as the others, he said.

Officers then arrived, and Saadat directed them to the room in which the man was confined — the nurse and security guard were still holding the door shut, he said.

Saadat and others carried the doctor out through the front of the hospital. Paramedics put her on a gurney and took her away, he said.

SWAT officers entered the hospital around 5:25 p.m., and Amirsoleymani was taken into custody after an hours-long standoff, police said. He was transported to a hospital for wounds to his arms that appeared to be self-inflicted, according to investigators.

He was booked on suspicion of three counts of attempted murder, and bail was set at $3 million, authorities said. Police said he had had multiple prior contacts with the LAPD, including two that involved officers using force against him. He was arrested in both instances on suspicion of battery on an officer and resisting arrest, authorities said.

Before receiving a report of the stabbings, which came in around 3:50 p.m., officers had been called to a report of a possible vehicle crash on Ventura Boulevard and received an indication that one of the people involved had entered the hospital, police said. But after a follow-up investigation, they determined no crash had taken place, they said.

Police did not know the motive for the attack, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Friday.

“We’re very mindful of what just occurred in Tulsa and what’s happened all across the country,” he said.

A gunman killed three employees and a patient Wednesday at a Tulsa, Okla., medical office, the latest in a series of recent mass shootings in the U.S.

Last week, 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 days earlier, a gunman killed 10 people in what authorities said was a racially motivated attack at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y.

“Law enforcement, as the rest of the public, is mindful of this spasm that we’ve seen of these horrific tragedies, and the department is committed to ensuring that we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of the public and prevent these horrible attacks,” Moore said.

The suspect had a small black dog with him, but a nurse picked it up during or after the stabbings, Saadat said.

The dental hygienist said he's received training to deal with these types of emergencies and doesn't consider himself squeamish. Despite the traumatic nature of the experience, fear set in only when he made eye contact with the man while holding the door to the storage room closed.

“He just very calmly turned his face and looked at me through the window, then turned his head back around. No reaction," he said. "That's where it kind of got me.”

Times staff writers Gregory Yee, Richard Winton and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.