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‘Armed And Dangerous’ New Jersey Nurse Who Set Co-Worker On Fire Dead By Suicide

Police say Nicholas Pagano, 31, allegedly hit a fellow Hackensack University Medical Center worker with a wrench, set her on fire using an “incendiary device” and later fatally shot himself.

By Dorian Geiger
Nicholas Pagano Pd

A traveling nurse working in New Jersey killed himself hours after he allegedly set a co-worker on fire using an “ignitable device” at a Hackensack hospital earlier this week, officials said.

Nicholas Pagano, 31, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Tuesday in Waterford Township, New Jersey, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

At the time of his death, Pagano was a wanted fugitive facing charges for attempted murder, aggravated arson, aggravated assault and unlawful weapons possession charges related to the vicious attack on a hospital staff member.

On Feb. 7, shortly after 5:00 a.m. police responded to Hackensack University Medical Center after reports of an assault in the hospital’s breakroom. Upon arrival, hospital staff told authorities Pagano had clubbed a 54-year-old hospital employee with a wrench and then severely burned her.

Police say Pagano allegedly set the woman ablaze using an “incendiary device,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.

Pagano's alleged victim was found by a third party, police say.

“When the witness approached the victim, she was observed to have severe burns to her body consistent with having been burned with some kind of unknown ignitable device,” charging documents stated. “There was also charring located in the breakroom in the area where the victim was believed to have been sitting.”

Witnesses told police they’d seen Pagano on the second floor in the emergency wing’s hallway shortly before the suspected attack. They later heard the victim screaming and trying to escape Pagano.

“The witness then observed Pagano chasing her and striking her with what appeared to be a wrench,” the complaint added.

Police seized the wrench they suspected was used in the violent attack.

Surveillance footage showed Pagano fleeing the hospital in a 1998 white Jeep Grand Cherokee at approximately 5:29 a.m. Police officials, who subsequently issued a statement announcing a warrant for his arrest, warned that the registered nurse was possibly armed and dangerous.

Nicholas Pagano Jeep Pd

The victim sustained severe, third-degree burns on her upper body, chest and hands, as well as a cut to her head that required stitches, prosecutors said. She was treated on-site in the hospital’s emergency room and was later taken to a separate medical facility in Livingston for further treatment. Her condition was described as critical. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family,”  a spokesperson for the Hackensack Meridian Health told Oxygen.com in a statement. “Our doctors, nurses and teams are true heroes and deserve our respect. The safety of our patients and our team members is Hackensack Meridian Health’s highest priority.”

A specific motive wasn’t immediately released by law enforcement. According to charging documents, Pagano wasn’t scheduled to work on the day of the alleged attack. No other information related to the case was immediately released by officials.

Pagano, a contract registered nurse, was first licensed in 2016. He’d been assigned to Hackensack University Medical Center in mid-November. A hospital spokesperson clarified the 31-year-old wasn’t a full-time employee, but he’d been cleared to work at the medical center after passing a state and county background check, a drug screening and a review of his nursing license.

Elizabeth Rebein, an assistant prosecutor and public information officer for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, declined to comment further on the case when contacted by Oxygen.com on Wednesday.

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