Tuesday, September 27

Gunman who killed 4 at Tulsa hospital was patient of doctor who is among the dead

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The gunman who killed four people at a Tulsa hospital on Wednesday blamed a doctor at the facility for ongoing pain after back surgery and vowed to kill him and anyone who got in his way, police said Thursday.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin told reporters that Michael Louis bought an AR-15-style weapon on the same day as the attack, killing St. Francis Hospital doctors Preston Phillips and Stephanie Husen. Two other victims were identified as William Love, a patient, and Amanda Green, a receptionist.

On May 19, Louis went into hospital for back surgery, and Phillips was the operating physician, Franklin said. After Louis was released from the hospital on May 24, he “called several times over several days complaining of pain and wanted additional treatment,” according to police.

Louis saw Phillips again on Tuesday, but called the doctor’s office again on Wednesday, “again complaining of back pain and wanting additional assistance,” Franklin said. Then, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Louis purchased a semiautomatic rifle from a local gun store, police said.

“That semiautomatic rifle was an AR-15-style rifle,” Franklin said. He added that Louis had previously purchased a .40-caliber handgun from a pawn shop on Sunday.

Authorities said they recovered a total of 37 bullet casings at the hospital — 30 from the AR-15-style rifle and seven from the handgun.

“We grieve with the families after this senseless tragedy. We grieve with the co-workers,” Franklin said. “And we pray. We pray because we all need prayer.”

The assailant entered an orthopedic clinic on the second floor of St. Francis Hospital’s Natalie Building armed with a handgun and a rifle shortly before 5 p.m., Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg told The Washington Post. Officers got to the scene within minutes, he said, and the gunfire suddenly stopped. Police then found the attacker dead, apparently having killed himself moments earlier.

The shooting came on the 101st anniversary of another horrible event in Tulsa, when a White mob pillaged a Black neighborhood, killing hundreds in one of the worst episodes of racial violence in the nation’s history. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) described Wednesday’s hospital attack as “a senseless act of violence and hatred.”

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St. Francis chief executive Cliff Robertson asked people in Tulsa and across the country to pray for the victims, families and workers.

“It will be a very bumpy road ahead of us,” Robertson said at a news conference Wednesday night. “There are over 10,000 of us who are part of the St. Francis Health System that every day commit their lives to taking care of people in need. This horrible, incomprehensible act is not going to change that.”

Wednesday’s attack came as the nation is reeling from several recent mass shootings that have renewed calls for tightening gun-control laws. As the hospital shooting unfolded, funerals were being held in Uvalde, Tex., after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. And in New York, a White man accused of killing 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store on May 14 was indicted on 25 counts, including domestic terrorism and murder as a hate crime, authorities said. Payton Gendron, 18, burst into a Tops Friendly Markets store and shot 13 people — 11 of them Black, investigators said.

Buffalo shooting suspect charged with murder as a hate crime, domestic terrorism

The House Judiciary Committee is poised on Thursday to advance legislation billed as an emergency response to recent mass shootings. The Protecting Our Kids Act, among other things, would raise the purchase age of an assault weapon from 18 to 21 years old and attempt to crack down on large-capacity magazines and “ghost guns.” It does not include an assault weapons ban.

The full Democratic-led House could vote on the package as early as next week, but it stands little chance in the evenly divided Senate to get 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. Democrats are hoping passage of a sweeping House bill will pressure Republicans in the Senate to join them in taking some action, even if it’s more modest.

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Police were called to the Tulsa hospital Wednesday after receiving a call about a “man with a rifle,” Meulenberg said. Police activated an “active shooter response” and a few officers charged “towards the gunfire” as they entered the building, he added. The gunfire stopped suddenly as they were making their way into the building, and they came across the victims. The building’s lockdown lasted about an hour.

Emergency services received another 911 call after the shooting that contributed to authorities’ belief that Louis had “intent” in the shooting.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) echoed Robertson and called on the community to support the hospital workers and think about what residents “can do to show your support for them in the midst of this tragedy.” When asked by reporters about the spate of mass shootings in the country, Bynum said he was just focused on Tulsa.

“Right now, my thoughts are with the victims here, many of whose families don’t even know about this yet,” Bynum said on Wednesday night. “If we want to have a policy discussion, that is something to be had in the future, but not tonight. Not tonight.”

But other lawmakers and Tulsa residents at the hospital for appointments or working nearby kept the recent mass shootings in mind while one played out in their own city. Tulsa City Councilor Jayme Fowler said it was “just too surreal to really understand why this happened.”

“It just hurts,” Fowler said.

Debra Proctor, 65, was almost done with her doctor’s appointment at St. Francis on Wednesday afternoon when she began hearing sirens — lots of sirens — outside. “I thought this was way too many sirens for a car accident,” she said in a phone interview.

As a nurse of 46 years, Proctor has treated patients with gunshot wounds. (She doesn’t work at St. Francis.) She’s also a gun owner who bought firearms for self-defense about six years ago. “I don’t use them, but I own two. I’m not against gun ownership.”

But Proctor says voters must elect officials who will legislate common-sense gun laws. “What’s wrong with background checks? What’s wrong with stopping the sale of AR-15s?” she said. “We have blood on our hands if we keep … electing those who don’t care.”

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Wednesday’s attack was yet another reminder of the increasing frequency in which multiple people are shot or killed in shootings in the United States. The mass shooting was the country’s 20th since the Uvalde massacre last week, according to the nonprofit anti-gun group the Gun Violence Archive, and the 233rd of the year.

There is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a mass shooting; the research group defines it as an event in which four or more people are killed or wounded, not including the shooter. Other attempts to tally the toll limit that instead to three or four people killed, not wounded.

There were several other shootings transpiring across the nation as the Tulsa shooting occurred — from Los Angeles to Pittston, Pa., local authorities said — in incidents that didn’t meet thresholds for a mass shooting. They nonetheless showed the omnipresence of shootings that has made the United States an outlier among developed, wealthy nations.

Naomi Andrews, 39, who takes her children to an orthopedic practice on the St. Francis medical campus, was shaken by the shooting, saying it reminded her of other recent violence. She did not want her kids going to school the day after the Uvalde shooting. Her children went anyway — and their campus promptly went into lockdown because of a shooting threat, she said.

Her daughter is supposed to go back to the doctor’s office soon, but after Wednesday’s mass shooting and the spate of attacks, she said it’s not a “safe place anymore.”

“It feels like the walls are closing in,” she said.

Hannah Knowles, Andrew Jeong, Clarence Williams, Tyler Pager, John Wagner and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.

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