‘I don’t know what the hell got into me:’ Man charged with attacking hospital workers appears before judge

Arrest warrants describe horrific attacks
Man accused of attacking staff at NHRMC charged with two counts of murder
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:34 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:34 PM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The man accused of violently attacking two staff members at New Hanover Regional Medical Center made his first appearance before a judge Wednesday afternoon.

Rothwell Jacob Simmons was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault by strangulation. His bond was set at $7.5 million.

Warrants paint a disturbing picture of the incident that unfolded in the emergency department at the hospital, calling the attack “premeditated.”

The documents allege Simmons threw the first victim on the ground, choking her until she fell unconscious. The first victim reportedly sustained internal injuries.

The warrant also notes Simmons is accused of trying to snap the second victim’s neck, leaving the woman with neck injuries and contusions as he strangled her.

“At this time, we can confirm that two team members were injured Tuesday afternoon by an individual inside of NHRMC’s emergency department. I cannot tell you the extent of the injuries at this time. Our first concern is for the employees and their families. For their privacy, we will not discuss any personnel connections to the incident. NHRMC Company Police is currently investigating this incident,” a Novant Health spokesperson wrote in an email to WECT.

In court, when asked if he wanted to hire his own attorney, Simmons told the judge “I’m not sure man, I don’t know what the hell got into me.”

An attorney was ultimately appointed for Simmons and he was given a February 3 court date. The judge also opted to keep his bond at $7.5 million.

Laws passed in 2015 and 2019 designed to protect healthcare workers are the reason behind the unusually high bond amount.

“Just as officers assaulted have special protections under the general statute, so do the people who work at the hospital, and it’s because they work in a dynamic environment and sometimes there’s subjected a real harm, and not just from airborne illness like we’re all experiencing right now with COVID, but sometimes with assaultive conduct. When that happens, it has the highest priority in my office,” said District Attorney Ben David. “These people really put their lives on the line, we should remember that.”

NHRMC police continue to investigate the incident.

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