Shot with his own gun: Madness in Sydney ER
Luke Warburton didn't realise he'd been shot until he felt blood running down his leg. He didn't realise he'd been shot with his own gun until he found his holster empty. This is how an ER hostage situation spiralled out of control.
Sergeant Luke Warburton's night shift had just started when a call came over his police radio of a hostage situation in the emergency department of one of Sydney's biggest hospitals.
The dog squad veteran just happened to be driving past Nepean Hospital at the time so he radioed in and was at the scene just seconds later.
It was January 12, 2016.
"As I drive into the emergency department, the doctors, the nurses were waiving me in, so I knew something was going on inside the hospital," Sgt Warburton tells The Night Watch.
Warburton decided a busy ED was no place for his police dog Chuck - his trusted companion, who years earlier helped him arrest one of Australia's most-wanted men. But tonight, Chuck would stay in the car and Warburton would go in on his own.
It didn't take him long to work out what he was dealing with. A man in one of the treatment bays had a young female doctor in a headlock and a pair of surgical scissors held tightly to her throat. Two other police officers arrived at the scene as Sgt Warbutron tried to negotiate with the offender.
LISTEN: Popular NSW Police Sergeant Luke Warburton tells The Night Watch how he was shot in the line of duty while wrangling with Michael de Guzman, who was holding a doctor hostage in the emergency department of Sydney's Nepean Hospital in 2016.
"I just decided that we needed to try and negotiate with him," he said.
"I was asking him to put the knife down. 'We don't need to be doing this. Just please release the doctor, release your hostage'."
"I thought I had made some headway with him when he went to lower the scissors from the throat, but for whatever reason … he put those back up there and that's when I decided that this is probably only going in one direction."
He said the man had become "a bit more agitated" as his muttering to himself escalated.
"We continue to talk with him but he wasn't interested in responding or doing anything that's like what we asked him to do," he added.
"So I had a quick conversation with the two police officers that are outside and decided we had to go in there and take control of the situation and get the hostage out.
"I gave him a burst of capsicum spray, which is pepper spray which hit him in the eyes. "That's startling, which was the result I was after. So I gave him a further burst of that for a longer period of time."
Sgt Warburton had hoped to distract the man long enough for him to grab his arm and pull the scissors away from the doctor's throat.
"So that was the plan at work," he said.
But things didn't go to plan.
They would in fact go horribly wrong and the events of that night would haunt Sgt Warburton to this day.
"We got in there, pushed him into the corner of the cubicle so he couldn't move away," he continued.
"And it was at that point that we heard a gunshot, which I thought was a bit strange considering we didn't see a firearm of any sort. And then a second gunshot went off.
"I called 'gun' and rolled off. I went to grab my firearm out of my holster. It was missing."
It would be another few seconds before Sgt Warburton realised he had been shot - with his own gun.
"I didn't feel the gun shot at all. I only heard it. I stood up, got on the police radio to inform them what was going on. And it was at that point I felt this warm sensation down my leg, which I then realised was blood.
"I collapsed to the ground and then there was a great pool of blood around me. And at that point someone pulled me out of the cubicle and put me on the [resuscitation] trolley."
Sgt Warburton tells The Night Watch he was convinced he had just a few minutes left before he would die - before he would bleed to death.
He was shot in the groin, the bullet exiting his thigh. It had struck his femoral artery, causing excessive blood loss.
"And that's when I thought to myself 'I've only got a couple of minutes to live'," he reveals. "And when you think you're gonna die, it's actually quite calm. Surprisingly, you think you'd be panicked … but I was very calm."
His first thoughts turned to his wife and children and had asked a nurse to use his phone to call his wife so he could tell her he loved them.
Sgt Warburton would undergo five hours of emergency surgery, waking to find his wife by his side. He would spend another five weeks in hospital before finally being allowed to go home.
While he was given a police guard of honour outside of the hospital and greeted by his beloved Chuck - he says he felt like anything but a hero that day.
"It's something you wouldn't wish anyone to go through, knowing that an offender has grabbed hold of your firearm," he admits.
"You're the one that's responsible for it, you're the one who's supposed to maintain control of it - to not even realise that somebody's wrestling with you and grabbing hold of it - it's a dreadful feeling, it's hollow - it's embarrassing."
The shooting at Nepean Hospital isn't the first time Sgt Warburton made headline news.
Four years earlier, he and his dog Chuck and other members of the NSW Police Force would hunt down and arrest one of Australia's most-wanted men - bringing to end a seven-year manhunt for Malcolm Naden.
Naden - who was wanted for murder, sexual assault and a string of other offences including the shooting of a police officer - was tracked down to the Gloucester area in northern NSW.
He was known as a skilled bushman who could survive in the wild.
After another fruitless day of searching, Sgt Warburton and some of his colleagues had retreated to a local pub for dinner. It was 8pm when they received a call leading to Naden's possible hideout hut in the middle of rugged bushland.
They had travelled about 40km from town where they joined officers from the tactical operations unit. They would then trek about another 4km deep into bushland at night - guided only by their night vision goggles.
"The closer we go to the hut, we could start to smell a fire," he said.
"The closer we got again, you could just see the flicker of the flame through the night vision goggles further up."
Officers had the hut surrounded. They watched as Naden left the hut - "he was going to the toilet or he was having a smoke, not too sure', Sgt Warburton said.
An officer accidentally stepping on a sheet of corrugated iron shattered the night silence and spooked Naden and he ran back inside the hut.
Fearing he was armed, the officers were instead shocked to find Naden running out through the front door and heading straight towards them.
It was then Sgt Warburton let go of Chuck - who ripped at Naden's left calf - before he was arrested without further incident.
"[Naden] is a pretty evil human being … and he's now locked up forever," Sgt Warburton added.
It has been four years since the Nepean shooting but Warburton admits it has been a long road back. He still suffers from his injuries and is unable to run or ride motorbikes.
"Almost four years on from the incident now, I still struggle with sleep - your mind always goes over and relives the incident," he said.
"Your mind is constantly working and you're ticking over. So when you lie down to go to sleep it doesn't matter how tired you are, you're still reliving it going over and over. And it's one of those things that just keeps playing out in your mind.
The offender was found not guilty under the Mental Health Act - something that also plays on Sgt Warburton's mind.
"He just walks away from it," he said.
"And although he's in some sort of psychiatric facility at the moment, he walks away from it. Yet I'm left with lifelong injuries."
Sgt Warburton is back at work three days a week and refuses to give up hope of returning to the force full-time and back being an operational dog handler.
Originally published as Shot with his own gun: Madness in Sydney ER