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Nicholas Pagano Found Dead After He Allegedly Set Colleague On Fire At Hackensack University Medical Center

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Nicholas Pagano, the man suspected of setting a colleague on fire Monday at Hackensack University Medical Center, was found dead 24 hours later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to authorities.

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office said Pagano's body was discovered Tuesday morning in Waterford Township. He was wanted on charges of attempted murder, aggravated arson, aggravated assault and unlawful weapons possession.

The 31-year-old traveling nurse allegedly confronted a patient care technician around 5:15 a.m. Monday in a hospital break room. Authorities said he hit the woman with a wrench and set her on fire.

Pagano was not scheduled to work that day, CBS2's Nick Caloway reported.

A witness told police he saw Pagano near the break room and then heard a female screaming. The witness also told police he saw the victim running in the hallway, with Pagano chasing her.

Pagano left the hospital and after a manhunt, his body was found Tuesday morning in Camden County.

The 54-year-old victim suffered third-degree burns and needed stitches on her head. She was treated at the emergency room before being transferred to another hospital.

The episode left some people rattled.

"You're not safe anywhere. It's scary. I can't imagine how something like that could happen," said Maywood resident Carol Macbeth, who was visiting her husband in the hospital. "And I feel so sorry for that woman because she is going to suffer the rest of her life."

The attack comes with health care workers already under incredible stress, dealing with the pandemic and staffing shortages.

Psychologist Dr. Alexandra Stratyner said violent encounters like this one can weigh heavily on health care workers in Hackensack, or really anywhere.

"To see that something like this can happen in the workplace, this is tremendously stressful and it can take a toll. And health care providers might be experiencing some fear of 'Could this happen to me?'" Stratyner said.

Pagano had been a registered nurse licensed in New Jersey since 2016. The hospital said he passed all the background checks required to work there.

A motive for the attack is still unknown.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story first appeared on Feb. 8.

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