Update, Friday, March 26, 2016, 5:15 p.m.: The family of a man who on Thursday fatally shot Metairie urologist Dr. Elbert Goodier III before killing himself has released a statement telling the physician’s loved ones, “Please know you are in our thoughts and prayers.”
The statement also said 73-year-old John P. Thomas of Kenner had “a long history of mental illness and had been treated for years with both medication and therapy.”
The full statement read:
“Our hearts go out to the Goodier family. Please know you are in our thoughts and prayers. We knew Dr. Goodier to have been an excellent doctor who treated my husband and our father with skill and compassion. We cannot comprehend how this has all happened.
“John Thomas was a husband, father, and grandfather to his family, who retired from the airline industry as a customer service representative after 35 years. Unfortunately, he also had a long history of mental illness and had been treated for years with both medication and therapy.
“However, he had never been violent nor expressed a desire to harm others. We share this not to justify his actions, but to help explain them. We are profoundly saddened by what has happened. As a family, we are in shock. We appreciate your understanding, as you provide us with the opportunity to process what has happened and mourn.”
— Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas
Update, Friday, March 26, 2016, 3:05 p.m.: The motive behind the fatal shooting of Dr. Elbert H. Goodier III on Thursday apparently stemmed from a medical diagnosis that had been received by the killer, a former patient who authorities were told was mentally ill, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Friday.
Col. John Fortunato declined to elaborate further, citing medical privacy laws. Authorities have previously said Goodier was killed by former patient John P. Thomas, 73.
According to authorities, Goodier, a urologist, was treating a patient in his office at East Jefferson General Hospital’s campus when Thomas walked in and shot the doctor. Thomas, of Kenner, then walked over to a nearby Wendy’s restaurant and fatally shot himself.
Thomas’ relatives have told investigators that he had a mental illness, but it is not clear if it had ever been diagnosed, and officials said he had no prior criminal history.
Meanwhile, Goodier’s funeral will be Monday, according to an obituary posted online.
The Mass will be at 1 p.m. at St. Clement of Rome Church, 4317 Richland Ave. in Metairie. Visitation will begin at 10 that morning, and Goodier, who was 75, will be buried at Hope Mausoleum.
Friends and relatives are invited, the obituary said.
Aside from being the former Department of Urology chairman at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, Goodier served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, his obituary said. The graduate of Jesuit High School (1957), Loyola University New Orleans (1963), and LSU Medical School (1967) formed part of the MD Anderson Cancer Network and was recognized as “Top Doctor in New Orleans” in 2001, the obituary said.
The obituary also described Goodier as “an avid LSU fan,” a Krewe of Hermes member, and a regular participant in the silent Jesuit retreats held at the Manresa house in Convent, upriver from New Orleans.
— Note: This post was edited since it was first published. Staff writers Ramon Antonio Vargas and Matt Sledge.
Update, Friday, March 25, 2016, 12:12 p.m.: The family of Dr. Elbert H. Goodier III, who authorities say was fatally shot in his Metairie office by a former patient on Thursday, released a statement Friday saying they were “devastated about the tragic loss of such a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and physician.”
“We appreciate the outpouring of support from family, friends, the medical community, and his patients,” the statement continued. “We would like to thank (the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office), the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office, and the East Jefferson General Hospital staff for their comfort and support over the last 24 hours.”
The family’s statement concluded with a request for privacy as they grieved Goodier’s death.
Goodier is survived by his wife, Catherine Goodier; a son, Michael Goodier; and two daughters, Christine Ross and Gina Goodier.
Goodier’s killer, 73-year-old John P. Thomas of Kenner, fatally shot himself later Thursday at a Wendy’s restaurant near the East Jefferson General Hospital medical office building, the Sheriff’s Office said. According to investigators, Thomas had no prior criminal history, but his family said he suffered from a mental illness.
A woman who answered a call to a phone number associated with Thomas declined an opportunity to comment but did say two families which had been torn apart by Thursday’s events needed prayers.
— Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas
A man marched into an East Jefferson General Hospital medical office building in Metairie on Thursday afternoon and fatally shot a urologist who was treating a patient, investigators said.
The gunman then headed into a nearby fast-food restaurant, stuck his weapon in his mouth and pulled the trigger, killing himself, according to authorities.
Officials said the slain physician was Dr. Elbert H. Goodier III, 75, a husband and father of three who was revered by his colleagues and patients.
Col. John Fortunato, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman, identified the killer Thursday night as John P. Thomas, 73, of Kenner. He said Thomas had no prior criminal history but, according to family members, suffered from a mental illness. A family member said Thomas was a patient of Goodier, Fortunato said.
Goodier was in his second-floor office at 4224 Houma Blvd. about 2 p.m. talking with a patient when the killer walked in and fired at the doctor once, Fortunato said.
Thomas then went to a nearby Wendy’s at 4226 W. Esplanade Ave.
Fortunato said deputies in the vicinity quickly responded. As they entered the Wendy’s, they did not even have a chance to order the suspect to put his gun down before he slid the gun into his mouth and fired, Fortunato said.
One woman who was inside the Wendy’s at the time described the scene as terrifying.
She said she didn’t notice the gunman at the front of the business until employees started shouting that deputies were entering the building.
“As soon as they came in through the door with their guns drawn, he lifted the gun and shot himself,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said his corporation felt “very blessed” that no employees or customers were injured during the incident.
Meanwhile, news of Goodier’s killing caused shock in New Orleans’ medical community.
Goodier had spent all of his nearly 50-year career in greater New Orleans, said Valerie Englade, an East Jefferson General Hospital spokeswoman. He graduated from the LSU School of Medicine in 1967, interned at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital and was a resident at Ochsner Medical Center before arriving at East Jefferson.
Among his many patients was L.J. Strassel, 58, of Covington. Choking back tears, Strassel recalled Thursday how Goodier ordered him to undergo prostate-specific antigen testing and ended up diagnosing him with cancer in December 2010.
Goodier recommended that Strassel have his prostate surgically removed because the cancer was too advanced for “a wait-and-see approach.” The idea of the procedure frightened Strassel, but Goodier assured him, “You will get through it. I am confident you will get through it.”
A surgeon whom Goodier recommended then operated on Strassel, who learned the cancer had been contained to his prostate. Strassel said he has been cancer-free for five years.
“Dr. Goodier caught it in time; he told me what to do; he told me who to do it with; and here I am, five years later, able to talk about it,” Strassel said. “He meant a lot to me. ... I am just shocked at what’s happened.”
Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich was at the hospital Thursday for a doctor’s appointment. He said that as he walked outside, police had just started cordoning off the scene, and his first thought was that he hoped the victim had not been one of his colleagues.
Unfortunately, it was, Cvitanovich said.
“I knew Dr. Goodier quite well, and ... he was a wonderful guy — I’ll just leave it at that,” Cvitanovich said. He said Goodier was “not the kind of a physician that you’d expect a patient to get that mad at.”
Englade, the East Jefferson spokeswoman, said Goodier is survived by his wife, Catherine Goodier; a son, Michael Goodier; and two daughters, Christine Ross and Gina Goodier.
He was the uncle of Dr. Colin Goodier, who was killed at age 28 by a passing truck while riding his bicycle in June 2008, inspiring a state law that requires motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot buffer when going around them.
Dr. Mark Peters, East Jefferson’s chief executive officer, said the hospital’s chaplains would be available to anyone who needs to speak with them in the wake of Goodier’s murder.
“This is a tragic loss for EJGH and our entire community,” Peters said. “Dr. Goodier was respected and beloved by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Our hearts and sympathies go out to his family, his friends, his staff and all who knew him. ... We, as a hospital and community, now mourn the loss of a generous and gracious man.”