Friday 20 September 2019

Three killed by gunman in hospital shooting spree after car park argument

The attacker also died after the incident at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital.

Police officials work near Mercy Hospital in Chicago (Zbigniew Bzdak/AP)
Police officials work near Mercy Hospital in Chicago (Zbigniew Bzdak/AP)

By Amanda Seitz and Don Babwin, Associated Press

An argument outside a Chicago hospital turned deadly when a man pulled out a gun and killed an emergency room doctor whom he knew, then ran into the hospital and fatally shot a pharmacy resident and a police officer, authorities said.

The attacker, Juan Lopez, also died but it was not clear if he took his own life or was killed by police at Mercy Hospital on the city’s South Side, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

Chicago “lost a doctor, pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved”, mayor Rahm Emanuel said, fighting back tears.

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Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, left, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Chris Walker/AP)

“This just tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil.”

Mercy Hospital said the staff who died were Tamara O’Neal, 38, an emergency room doctor who never worked on Sunday because of her religious faith, and Dayna Less, 25, a first year pharmacy resident who had recently graduated from Purdue University.

The dead officer was identified as Samuel Jimenez, 28, who joined the department in February 2017 and had recently completed his probationary period, Mr Johnson said.

Police said he was married and the father of three children.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described the shooting as a “domestic-related active shooter incident”, but provided no details about the relationship between the two.

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Employees from the hospital are evacuated (David Banks/AP)

Lopez, 32, and Ms O’Neal had been arguing in the hospital car park.

When a friend of Ms O’Neal tried to intervene, “the offender lifted up his shirt and displayed a handgun”, Mr Johnson said.

The friend ran into the hospital to call for help, and the gunfire began seconds later.

After Ms O’Neal fell to the ground, Lopez “stood over her and shot her three more times”, a witness named James Gray told reporters.

When officers arrived, the suspect fired at their squad car then ran inside the hospital.

The police gave chase.

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Chicago police officers and firefighters form an honour guard as the body of Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez is brought to the coroner (David Banks/AP)

Inside the medical centre, Lopez exchanged fire with officers and “shot a poor woman who just came off the elevator” before he was killed, Mr Johnson said, referring to pharmaceutical assistant Ms Less.

“We just don’t know how much damage he was prepared to do,” Mr Johnson said, adding that Ms Less “had nothing to do with nothing”.

Jennifer Eldridge was working in a hospital pharmacy when she heard three or four shots that seemed to come from outside.

Within seconds, she barricaded the door, as called for in the building’s shooting drills.

Then there were six or seven more shots that sounded much closer, just outside the door.

“I could tell he was now inside the lobby. There was screaming,” she recalled.

The door jiggled, which Ms Eldridge believed was the gunman trying to get in.

Some 15 minutes later, she estimated, a Swat team officer knocked at the door, came inside and led her away.

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Chicago Police work at the scene (David Banks/AP)

She looked down and saw blood on the floor but no bodies.

“It may have been 15 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity,” she said.

Maria Correa hid under a desk, clutching her four-month-old son, Angel, while the violence unfolded.

Ms Correa was in the waiting area of the hospital for her mother-in-law’s doctor appointment when a hospital employee told them to lock themselves in offices.

She lost track of how many shots she heard while under the desk “trying to protect her son” for 10 to 15 minutes.

“They were the worst minutes of our lives,” Ms Correa said.

The death of Mr Jimenez comes nine months after another member of the Chicago Police Department, Commander Paul Bauer, was fatally shot while pursuing a suspect in the Loop business district.

Mercy has a rich history as the city’s first chartered hospital.

It began in 1852, when the Sisters of Mercy religious group converted a rooming house.

During the Civil War, the hospital treated both Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners of war, according to its website.

PA Media

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