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Police reports detail bomb threat to Cottage Hospital the day it closed

Cottage staff learned of the threat from a neighboring medical center, and were later told hospital owners knew of the threat but didn't call police or employees.

GALESBURG, Ill. — Hours before Galesburg Cottage Hospital shut its doors, staff and patients were evacuated and police were called in for a bomb threat. Now, police reports are showing that threat wasn't "credible." 

At 3:17 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, Galesburg police officers were dispatched to the hospital to follow up on a call about a bomb threat. When they arrived, officers discovered it was a doctor that alerted police. 

She told police she was alarmed after a phone call came in to Cottage, from Royal Oaks Medical Center in Kewanee. 

"Staff from Royal Oaks knew Cottage was under a bomb threat and was ready to accept their last patient," reads the police report. 

The doctor hadn't heard anything about such a threat and told officers she alerted her management, who assured her Dr. Sanjay Sharma, the hospital's owner and CEO, was aware and going to call the police. 

The officers said Dr. Sharma had never called. 

RELATED: Cottage Hospital temporarily closes, patients evacuated, more staff fired

Eventually, the hospital's house supervisor arrived and said she was awaiting orders to evacuate the facility, though she had not been directly told there was a threat, but instead all the information was coming from the Royal Oaks phone call. 

That's when a hospital supervisor arrived and revealed the Sharma family had received a threat against their lives by an ex-staff member, but admitted, "there was no credible source stating there was a bomb threat," according to the report. 

Upper management were allegedly monitoring the situation while the Sharmas were out of state. 

That same supervisor told police while there wasn't a credible threat, there was some vandalism. A whiteboard in the hospital had been spray painted with the words "F*** the Sharmas." Additionally, the day before, Dr. Sharma's nameplate had been removed from his office the day before and stuck on the morgue doors and someone had written "Liars, Shame on the Sharmas" on Cottage windows. 

Officers performed a sweep of the hospital but did not find any evidence of a bomb. Eventually, police were told Dr. Sharma's wife, Priyam Sharma, was on the phone admitting there was never a bomb threat, only a threat to her and her family. Police then left the scene. 

But the original officer spoke to Priyam on the phone, when she spoke of a phone call she had gotten the night before, on Jan. 7. She told officers an ex-employee, who she identified, had shouted over the phone, "If you guys ever come here you will be taken out," during a 12-second phone call. 

RELATED: 'They threw us away': Cottage Hospital surgeons fired, staff fear of closing

Then, she admitted there had been 'unrest' with employees who were terminated from the hospital. 

"Many workers were upset when they were let go from the job during staffing cuts," said the report, while recounting Priyam's discussion with the officer. She said she knew of 'Sharma hate parties' and wanted to press charges against those responsible for the threats. 

The police eventually contacted three former employees, who had all lost their jobs at Cottage and had been out drinking together when the call happened. All three independently maintained the call was mostly laughter and name-calling, but not threatening. 

One employee said when Priyam picked up, they shouted, "I love you," while another employee yelled "No you don't she's a b****!" That same former staff member told police it was "more laughter" than anything, and that anything Priyam said was "a lie." 

The other two employees corroborated the first statement, that no threats had been made toward the Sharmas. 

Now, the hospital remains closed and service remains suspended. The Sharmas did not respond to repeated requests for comment and there is no word on when, or if Cottage will ever reopen. 

In the weeks leading up to the closure, entire teams of staff members were unexpectedly laid off and patients told to find care elsewhere. But many patients and former staffers say administration is not cooperating in the transfer of medical records, and many ex-employees are still reporting missing paychecks. 

Find WQAD's full coverage of Galesburg Cottage Hospital here.