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Man with ‘approximately 6 months to live’ arrested for allegedly stabbing ER nurse 3-inches deep in neck with pocket knife while she was trying to help him

David Nichols, who is accused of stabbing an ER nurse in the neck , appears for his arraignment on Monday (CBS News screenshots)

David Nichols, who is accused of stabbing an ER nurse in the neck , appears for his arraignment on Monday (CBS News screenshots)

A 76-year-old man who says he is dying of lung cancer was arrested this week for allegedly stabbing a nurse in the neck — nearly slicing her carotid artery — while receiving treatment a a hospital emergency room in Massachusetts. David Nichols was taken into custody Monday evening and charged with one count of attempted murder and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, authorities announced.

According to a press release from the Gardner Police Department, officers at about 8 p.m. on June 12 responded to the Heywood Hospital Emergency Department located in the 200 block of Green Street, which is about 65 miles northwest of Boston. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders located the victim, saying she was a “member of the nursing staff at the hospital.” The victim was transported to the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, about 30 miles away, for treatment.

Authorities say the suspected attacker — later identified as Nichols — was taken into custody at the scene.

Nichols — a New Hampshire resident who is still a patient at Heywood Hospital — appeared remotely from his hospital bed on Tuesday for his arraignment in the Gardner District Court.

During the proceedings, prosecutors said that the victim was trying to help Nichols adjust breathing tubes connected to his nostrils when he suddenly took her by the arm and stuck a pocket knife into her neck, CBS News reported.

“The defendant grabbed her by the neck with his left arm,” Assistant District Attorney Marc Dupuis reportedly said in court. “She felt a laceration to her neck. She immediately screamed for help.”

Following the attack, Nichols allegedly told another nurse that he just needed to get “some air.”

In an interview with police, Nichols allegedly told investigators he was aware that what he did was wrong, but allegedly added that “what the hospital was doing was wrong” as well, CBS reported.

In requesting a bond of $100,000, prosecutors reportedly pointed to Nichols’ previous run-ins with law enforcement for assault and also provided the court with multiple photographs, including pictures of the knife Nichols allegedly used to stab the nurse and several depicting the victim’s wound, which was reportedly three inches deep.

Nichols’ defense attorney, Brian DeMott, emphasized that his client had recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and was in Massachusetts staying at his sister’s home where he is under hospice care, per the CBS report.

“The doctor told him he has approximately six months to live,” DeMott reportedly told the court, arguing that his client was not a flight risk.

The judge ultimately sided with prosecutors, ordering Nichols to remain in detention in lieu of a $100,000 bond. He is scheduled to return to court on July 14.

The police department and Heywood Healthcare CEO Rozanna Penney released a joint statement about the incident, saying that violence against health care personnel is unacceptable.

“Violence against caregivers is not acceptable,” the statement says. “In addition to the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy, expanded screening protocols are being assessed to ensure the safety of our caregivers and patients.”

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.