A Chicago police officer and two hospital workers were killed Monday in a grisly shooting at Mercy Hospital on the city’s South Side. The gunman, Juan Lopez, was also killed.
CHICAGO – Mercy Hospital held its first-ever active shooter drill just weeks before the shooting Monday that left four people dead – a move that might have prevented even worse carnage, hospital officials said.
The gunman, whom authorities have identified as 32-year-old Juan Lopez, first opened fire outside the hospital, shooting his ex-fiancée, Dr. Tamara O’Neal. The emergency room physician was ending her shift for the day, authorities said.
The suspect then fired at police arriving at the scene before running into the hospital, where he engaged in a gun battle with officers.
Two others – 25-year-old pharmacy resident Dayna Less and 28-year-old Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez – were also fatally shot in the incident.
Michael Davenport, Mercy’s chief medical officer, said the hospital held its first active-shooter drill just weeks ago. Some, but not all, hospital employees participated. The drill was a follow-up on Internet and classroom instruction for employees, Davenport said.
He said it appeared hospital employees executed the “run, hide, fight” instruction.
“Never in our wildest imagination would we ever think that we would have to experience the day we have,” Davenport said. “It is our inclination, I can speak for myself, you don’t feel well when you’re hiding. You want to open up a door and you want to see what’s going on and you want to help. But everyone did what they were trained to do.”
Hospital employees described taking quick action after hearing the first shots.
Pharmacist Joan Fortune said she and colleagues were talking to a patient at the pharmacy, which is near the emergency room entrance where the gunfire first erupted. The patient, a man using a wheelchair, was the first to notice the sound of gunfire. He quickly rolled himself out of the hospital
Hospital workers around the pharmacy pulled down security shutters and took shelter in an office in the space, Fortune said, putting two locked doors between them and the gunman.
“We heard more gunshots and arguing,” Fortune said. “We stayed barricaded for about 30 minutes until the police (arrived), and we ran out a back (exit).”
Jennifer Eldridge, a pharmacy technician, said the moment was harrowing as the gunfire continued.
“You could hear the shots,” she said. “You could hear him once he was inside. He wasn’t too far from the pharmacy.”
Steven White, a patient who was near the emergency room entrance when the gunfire erupted, said a police officer who entered the area told everyone to stay down and he scurried for cover. White said at least 20 patients were in the space near the emergency room entrance when the gunman opened fire.
“He was shooting in the back,” White said. “All the women started yelling and the kids started crying.”
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson credited Jimenez and the other officers who rushed to the scene with preventing more deaths. Jimenez joined the department less than two years ago.
“There is no doubt in my mind that all those officers who responded are heroes,” Johnson said.
Dr. Patrick Connor, chairman of the hospital’s emergency department, described O’Neal, a doctor just couple of years past her medical residency, as a “most fascinating, hardworking” person.
Connor called O’Neal “the best person ever,” and said she was dedicated to helping others.
She raised money each year to help pay for school supplies for disadvantaged children. Her one request for him, Connor said, was to have Sundays off, so she could sing with her church choir.
“If you were an extremist, she was the right person for you,” said Connor, holding back tears. “She never missed work and her total dedication to her church.”
“She will be sorely missed,” he said.
Less, who had recently graduated from Purdue University, was just getting started with her career. Connor said she had just begun her residency at Mercy in July.
Police said was shot as she exited an elevator. She had no connection to the gunman.
Jimenez was the married father of three young children, police said.
Johnson said the officer and his partner weren’t dispatched to the scene. They were in the area when the gunfire began, and ran in to help save lives.
Jimenez was rushed from Mercy to the trauma unit at the nearby University of Chicago Medical Center, but was soon pronounced dead.
Dozens of police officers participated in a procession to honor the officer Monday evening. Officers stood saluting their colleague as an ambulance took his body from the hospital to the medical examiner’s office.
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