Gunman Kills Chicago Emergency Physician, Two Others

Hospital shooting occurs 2 weeks after NRA tells physicians to "stay in their lane"

by Elizabeth Hlavinka

CHICAGO -- Physicians were outraged after two hospital employees -- including a physician and a pharmacy resident -- and a police officer were killed Monday in a shooting here at Mercy Hospital, according to news reports.

"The city of Chicago lost a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant, and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in an announcement. "This tears at the soul of our city."

CHICAGO -- Physicians were outraged after two hospital employees -- including a physician and a pharmacy resident -- and a police officer were killed Monday in a shooting here at Mercy Hospital, according to news reports.

"The city of Chicago lost a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant, and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in an announcement. "This tears at the soul of our city."

Tamara O'Neal, MD, an emergency physician at the hospital, was shot and killed by her former fiance in the parking lot outside the facility after a verbal altercation, according to Chicago police superintendent Eddie T. Johnson. The shooter afterwards fled inside the hospital, where Dayna Less, PhD, a pharmacy resident, and Samuel Jimenez, a police officer, were also shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire, he said.

The shooter was also fatally wounded, but it remains unclear whether or not the wound was self-inflicted, Johnson said.

"What I would ask is that you all keep all the victims of today's horrific incident in your thoughts and prayers," Johnson said in the announcement.

Vineet Arora, MD, of the University of Chicago, was previously a hospitalist at Mercy Hospital. She told MedPage Today in an email that although she did not know O'Neal personally, this shooting was an example of a "senseless loss of lives."

"Hospitals are meant to be healing environments where our patients recover and gain the strength they need to transition home," Arora said in an email. "The fact that violence has invaded our hospitals now, in addition to our schools, places of worship, and recreational activities means no where is really safe."

The shooting comes 2 weeks after a Twitter post from the National Rifle Association, which stated, "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane." The statement motivated the creation of Twitter hashtags #ThisIsMyLane and #ThisIsOurLane, which dozens of physicians have used to share their personal experiences with gun violence.

Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, of Brown University, was one of several physicians who took to social media after the Chicago shooting, posting on Twitter that, "This is sadly, the lane of all healthcare providers."

She told MedPage Today that this event hit particularly close to home for her and the healthcare community, and serves as a reminder that everyone is at risk with a "public health epidemic" like gun violence.

"We as a profession and the larger group of healthcare providers have come together to say that this is completely our lane and if no one else is going to act to stop this, we are going to do so," she said.

American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) president Vidor Friedman, MD, released a statement Tuesday calling for further research and legislation regarding firearm violence. Preventive measures could include creating a confidential national firearm injury research registry, encouraging healthcare providers to discuss firearm safety, or investigating the effects of certain risk factors on firearm injury, he stated.

ACEP "abhors the current level of intentional and accidental firearm injuries and finds that it poses a threat to the health and safety of the public," he said in the statement.

"Every day many people and families are harmed by firearms and those who wield them," he stated. "Can we find the will collectively to say 'enough already' and do something other than watch, holding our breath for the next devastating event? While the shock and grief of this senseless tragedy are still fresh, we are resolved to redouble our efforts at dealing with what has unfortunately become a regular occurrence in our nation."

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Comments

— Timothy Wheeler, MD
How can this possibly have happened in Chicago? Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation.

 

— Suzanne OBrien
Chicago is a gun free zone. So, it should never have happened, right Mr. Emmanuel? Let's not put the blame where it should lie. It's not the gun, or the NRA, it's the shooter.

 

— AJ
“Does this new tragedy support treating gun violence as a public health issue? ”

Better late than never.. My answer is “Absolutely!”

All those in healthcare should treat areas within so many feet of a hospital as a gun free zone except those approved by the hospital and police. It should be treated like drugs near a school and smoking near health facilities. There is no need to bring a gun to a hospital. Security should provide a gun check area where people can leave their guns. Violations should have strong consequences and be enforced.

And the AMA needs to stand up to the NRA and withdraw support from every politician supporting the NRA or/ and not supporting gun control. Perhaps the AMA is making a pact with the devil to get other things? Healthcare professionals need to speak up loudly.

 

— Krishna Shah
In the first paragraph, you mentioned a “pharmacy worker”. She was actually a first-year pharmacy resident with a doctorate. Please make the necessary corrections to the paragraph and title.

ER physicians as well as other Healthcare Providers are in a unique position to identify, address and perhaps intervene in stopping the epidemic of gun related violence. As trained professionals, we may see signs, symptoms, behaviors, statements which identify individuals who are most likely to commit murder and serious injury. Working together with government to balance an individual's right to privacy and freedom against the greater good of society is a complicated issue, requiring a shift of the current paradigm.

Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the US, and embattled mayor Emmanuel is one of the most gun restrictive mayors in the US. In spite of this, a jealous ex fiancé is able to commit evil and kill 3 people. The perpetrator should have been identified and neutralized before he was able to fire his gun. There is no excuse for it.

stephen victor
Need more armed guards and metal detectors in hospitals, schools and other public buildings. Chicago has very strict gun laws and among the highest rates of gun violence.

I agree, that although Chicago has the most restrictive gun laws in our nation, it also has the highest kill rate. This hospital was a gun free zone. I guess the shooter didn't read the sign. He entered the hospital and killed three innocent people, who were there to care and protect our lives - and they were taken from us by a jealous and perhaps mentally ill person.

 

— Andrew Johnstone
If a high-rise building were set afire by an arsonist, and three facts were clear:

1. He used a Bic Lighter to light the fire,
2. Bic Lighters were prohibited in that building, and
3. The building owner had prohibited possession of fire extinguishers,

Would we blame

a. the arsonist
b. the availability of Bic Lighters
c. the lack of tougher rules against having lighters in the building, or
d. the owner for prohibiting fire extinguishers...?

Of course we'd blame the arsonist, but we've already realized that 'outlawing arsonists' doesn't work, so we need a deeper layer of protection.

So our options include:

a. More restrictions on Bic lighters
b. More lighter-free zones, or
c. Removing the prohibition on fire-extinguishers.

Tell me why "c" would be completely off the table in any rational discussion, and we would just double-down on regulations about Bic lighters, or quibble about whether other brands, or matches, should be prohibited or restricted, and to whom...? Would logic and REALITY not tell us that arsonists will always find ways to light fires, and arsonists don't obey rules...?

When places with fire-extinguishers clearly have less lethal fires, would we not take seriously recommendations that while we do all the other appropriate things to try to reduce arson, that in the interim, 'fire-extinguisher-free-zones' are in themselves a danger, and a manifestation of illogical, irrational, fear, rather than a sound public policy...?

 

T Paine
This is not a public health issue, this was Domestic assault that took place in a parking lot, just happened to be a hospital parking lot. As an ER MD, shouldn't she have been the first to diagnose the mental illness of her fiancé assailant? If she hadn't been disarmed by her workplace she may have survived the encounter.

Ronald Rust
The only public health issue at hand is the mental instability of the shooter in this and other multiple victem shootings. The gun is only a tool that has been misused by a mentally unstable/deranged individual. As pointed out earlier, Chicago has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the nation. It is virtually a 'gun free' city. More gun laws will not change the outcome of these events. Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.

Following the rationale of the anti-second amendment pressure groups, California desperately needs a ban on fire.

Holly Carlson
My heart aches badly for everyone affected by yet more killings in Chicago. But those saying so are correct that it is PEOPLE, not the guns, that kill people. The headline in this article is very poor and emotional. Truth is that the killer was that doctor's ex-fiance so this was a personal situation that could have happened regardless of the victim's profession. So never mind the cute "stay in your lane" (stupid of NRA to say such a thing) or "it is our lane" slogans however "viral" they go, because neither slogan does anything to SOLVE the problem that bad, insane, deranged people are killing people, and those same people would kill people with whatever they could (cars, knives, clubs, etc) whether or not people's emotions destroy our 2nd amendment rights to protect and defend ourselves.

James Sullivan
bullets should have A $5000 tax on each of them, and the money should go to pay for the care of those shot.

The assumption of mental illness in the perpetrator is a bit of a leap. It is just as likely that he would not have met the legal definition of mental impairment needed to limit his actions as to assume he was "crazy". There are numerous people with a tendency to violence who are not mentally ill. Narcissists and people with conduct issues are highly prevalent (just look around on your next stay in freeway traffic!) and given the wrong circumstances may cross the line to violent acts. To blame one of the victims by not "diagnosing" her former fiancé indicates a lack of understanding of interpersonal relationships. Of note, many were aware of the shooter's difficulty with temper and women yet he had a concealed carry permit and a prior temporary firearm surrender order in 2014 that was rescinded.
We should be able to agree on I dare say stringent laws governing who can legally buy guns. At this time in our country there are too many sane but broken people, mostly men, amongst us. Whether it is the result of broken, unhealthy families, psychological injury from battlegrounds (both foreign (military) or domestic (broken urban/suburban communities)) or social isolation, I fear the number of these incidents will only grow. We appear unable to have a reasoned discourse on the above issues much less have the leadership at any level to address those problems. That stated, at this time gun ownership needs to be considered a privilege, not a right. Rather the ability to live a full life with reasonable safety from violent end is a right that we all should have.

LeeAnn Elliott
This situation to me should highlight treating domestic violence as a public health issue. Blame the person not the weapon.

 

— DEBORAH JOHNSON
What happened in Chicago, my hometown, is so horrific. When I grew up there were teens killing teens and innocent bystanders. All I knew that guns were horrible and the only people that possess guns are thugs. Then I realized that thugs were well armed and innocent people had no defense. Only when I moved south and began practicing did I realize that guns are not just for thugs. They are for law abiding citizens that enjoy pistol competition and hunting. Also self protection with extensive education and training is a must. I became an NRA pistol instructor and a member/trainer with TWAW (the Well Armed woman). Evil people will ALWAYS have access to firearms. Evil has increased. We keep blaming guns and mental illness but what about the breakdown of families? Kids being exposed to crack at home and parents even offering it to their kids, educational system broken and so afraid to discipline in the schools and having higher education expectations I see kids being told there are no absolute right and wrong and allowing electronics to raise our children without supervision. I’m seeing 2 year olds being entertained all the time with a phone while the parents are absorbed in social media. Now this is also horrific. It’s so much easier to blame guns and mental illness than to fix the real problems. Chicago is one of the most violent cities and has the strictest gun laws. Society has changed and I don’t leave my house without my firearm on my hip. So sad it’s come to this.

— bruce j. romanczuk, M.D.
physicians can and should be a major force in gun violence related to mental health, especially suicide performed with guns [ perhaps the ACLU can help with this aspect]. once they show some success in this group, their credibility will be increased with illegal gun use recommendations [ perhaps law enforcement and politicians can help here]. then if the NRA and legal gun owners and users are still a problem, they can then problem solve for this group. with the former groups under control by their expertise, I am sure the latter group will be happy to review their suggestions.

— Andi Chapman
I have been around firearms all my life. I have never had a gun attack without someone who has anger and/or mental issues at the other end. It isn't a gun issue, it's a heart and mind issue.

— lisa lake
It's another domestic violence incident. Yes docs, stay in your lane. Maybe concentrate on your hospital workplace violence and active shooter education?

— Andrew Johnstone
Physicians in general have about as much intellectual authority in recommending public policy on violent-crime associated with firearms ownership, as deer hunters would recommending medical treatment of the dyslipidemia associated with insulin resistance. In fact I'd sooner turn to the pages of Guns&Ammo for medical advice as to the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine regarding firearms regulation.

Why would I allow the medical field to be involved in gun registration and legislation, when they are largely responsible for the opioid epidemic? At least they have training and education in pharmacology and pain management

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