Four people are dead, and several others are injured after a gunman opened fire at the Natalie Building at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday afternoon, according to police, marking the third mass shooting in the U.S. in just the last three weeks.
The shooter, who is believed to have been between 35 and 40 years old, took his own life at the scene. The victims include Dr. Preston Phillips; Dr. Stephanie Husen; Amanda Glenn, a receptionist; and William Love, who was with a patient.
During a press conference, Tulsa Police Captain Meulenberg said the shooter chose this hospital in particular.
“This wasn’t an individual who just decided he wanted to go find a hospital full of random people,” he said. “He deliberately made a choice to come here and his actions were deliberate.”
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin identified the gunman as Michael Louis. He noted that Louis recently had surgery at St. Francis and that Phillips, who performed the surgery, was the target of the attack.
“We also have a letter on the suspect, which made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way,” Franklin said. “He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.”
Police arrived on the scene four minutes after they received a call about an active shooter. Nearly all of the shooting took place in a section of the hospital on the second floor. Officers then ran towards the sound of gunshots. The firing stopped as soon as they reached the second-floor doorway. They searched the scene and found one victim before discovering the body of the gunman lying on the floor.
“There is an orthopedic center, an orthopedic office, there, but I’m unaware if that occupies the whole floor, or if there are other offices on the floor,” Meulenberg said, adding that it was “at least part of the scene.”
Meulenberg added that none of those injured sustained life-threatening injuries and that the gunman used both of his weapons during the attack.
The tragedy coincided with the 101-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, but it’s not clear the two incidents are related.
Police also received a tip that the gunman left a bomb in Muskogee, about 50 miles southeast of Tulsa. The authorities evacuated the area and are still searching for explosives.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said that some of the families of the victims had not yet been informed about what had happened.
“This has been the facility more than any other that has worked to save the lives of people in this city,” Bynum said. He also praised “the broad range of first responders today who did not hesitate to respond to this act of violence.”
Cliff Robertson, chief executive of Saint Francis Hospital, commented on where the hospital goes from here. “There will be a very bumpy road, I think, ahead of us,” he said.
“But there are over 10,000 people that are part of the Saint Francis health system that every day commit their lives to taking care of people in need, taking care of everyone in need, and this senseless, horrible, incomprehensible act is not going to change that,” Robertson explained.
Gannon Gill, a physician at St. Francis and an experienced hunter, recognized the sound of gunfire as he was finishing an appointment with a new patient.
“There was an initial ‘What was that?’” he said. He then turned to his patient and said: “Let’s go. I don’t think this is good.”
Gill guided this patient through the “labyrinth” of hospital hallways and interconnected rooms to get away from the sound of gunfire. They ran into a small group of colleagues in another section of the hospital. They crouched and hustled for the front door before making it to the parking garage. The group made it out in less than a minute after the shooting started.
Gill later learned that some of his colleagues hid in utility closets during the attack.
Inside the parking garage, Gill called his wife and told her not to panic. He then searched for his car keys only to realize that he left them behind. The group decided to stay in the garage until help arrived. The staff started calling the other doctors and nurses who were unaccounted for.
One patient came up to Gill and told him that they ran into the shooter moments before he opened fire.
“The shooter told him and his wife to leave and he was not there for him,” Mr. Gill said.
During an interview with reporters, Gill said he was having trouble remembering some of the details of what was a “pretty scary” day.
“You see this stuff on television or the news,” he said, “but you don’t think it’s ever going to happen in your workplace.”