ER Doctor, Pharmacist Among Dead in Chicago Hospital Shooting

Alicia Ault

November 20, 2018

An emergency medicine physician and a first-year pharmacy resident were among three people killed in a shooting at a Chicago hospital yesterday, just a few weeks after the facility had conducted an active shooter drill.

The shooting also killed a Chicago policeman, Samuel Jimenez, 28, who was in his second year on the force.

The attack came as physicians continued to push back — on Twitter, in editorials, and in new position papers — against the National Rifle Association, which, in a November 7 tweet, told "self-important doctors" to "stay in their lane" when it came to reducing gun violence.

"We are saddened and shocked by today's active shooter incident in our Emergency Department which resulted in four deaths," said Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, in a statement.

Tamara O'Neal, MD, 38, was shot six times in the hospital's parking lot by her ex-fiancé, Juan Lopez, 32. The man was apparently enraged because O'Neal broke off the engagement, according to the Chicago Tribune.

He shot at police — who had been called by an eyewitness who worked with O'Neal — when they arrived on the scene, and then ran into the hospital, continuing to shoot. According to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, officers followed the shooter and they and the man exchanged gunfire inside the hospital.

As bullets flew, patients, staff, and visitors sought cover where they could, and staff tried to move some patients out of the hospital, according to the New York Times. Dayna Less, 25, pharmacy resident, unknowingly stepped off an elevator into the chaos. The gunman took her life. "That woman got off an elevator and was shot, why?" said Johnson, at a press briefing.

The shooter also died, but police were not sure whether it was from a self-inflicted wound, Johnson said. He also appeared to have had a history of violence. Reports indicated that he was fired from the Chicago Fire Academy for threatening a female cadet, according to ABC News,  and had threatened an ex-wife, who had gotten a protection order, the Chicago Sun Times reported. That paper also reported that the shooter had a valid firearm owners' identification card and a concealed-carry license, which had been issued despite the protection order.

Tributes Pour In

O'Neal was known as church-going and community-oriented and was loved by colleagues. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (UICM) and soon after began her residency through UICM at Mercy, which she completed in 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As news of the shooting spread, the University of Illinois-Chicago Emergency Medicine Residency Twitter account posted multiple photos of O'Neal during her residency at the program. O'Neal was all smiles.

Colleagues at Mercy not only were devastated by her death, but some even worked to save her.

"I knew her, trained with her, saved lives with her and tonight, tried to save her life. Tonight, I broke down in front of my coworkers when we lost her, and tonight I held hands with her mother in prayer. Tonight, we lost a beautiful, resilient, passionate doc. Keep singing, TO,"  John Purakal, MD, tweeted.

Other physicians across the nation were moved, also. "Absolutely heartbreaking. Hits too close to home. I work with #EMPhysicians who come to work every day to save lives and Dr. O'Neal lost her life due to #IntimatePartnerViolence #GunViolence. Enough, we physicians need to speak up #NoMore #ThisIsOurLane It can happen to anyone," Bharti Khurana, MD, tweeted.

The shooting triggered a bad memory for Laura Offutt, MD. "Another @ACPinternists here. I was an intern. My resident was shot and killed by her boyfriend. He turned the gun on himself. My husband was on call and operated on him. #ThisIsOurLane #docs4gunsense #Enough," Offutt tweeted.

Less was due to be married in June 2019, according to Heavy.com. The website also said that she had experienced a headache disorder requiring multiple surgeries when she was a teenager, and then went on to Purdue College of Pharmacy, where she graduated in May 2018.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the Less family said, "The family of Dayna wants to let everyone know that she should not be remembered as a victim, but as a beautiful daughter who overcame adversity and dared to succeed in a tragic world."

She was an ardent Chicago Cubs fan, and the team tweeted its support for all of the deceased, including Chicago police officer Jimenez. "We are heartbroken for the families of [Chicago Police Department] officer Samuel Jimenez, Dr. Tamara O'Neal and Dayna Less, victims of today's senseless shooting at Mercy Hospital. Our thoughts are with their loved ones and friends," the Cubs tweeted.

Jimenez joined the force in February 2017, Johnson said. He and his partner were not assigned to the hospital shooting — they heard that officers needed assistance and went immediately to Mercy Hospital.

"Today we mourn Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez. His heroic actions saved countless lives. He ran toward danger. He ran toward those shots. He ran into fire. Selflessly," the Chicago Police Department said on Twitter.

Pharmacist Bryan D. Hayes, PharmD, expressed his sadness and gave his support to the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM). Healthcare professionals and others are being encouraged to donate to the group.

"As an [emergency department] pharmacist, I live in both the Emergency Medicine & Pharmacy worlds. I mourn with the Mercy Hospital family and those who knew the 3 victims: Dr. Tamara O'Neal, Dr. Dayna Less, & Officer Samuel Jimenez. This is awful. I fully support @ResearchAffirm. #ThisIsOurLane," Hayes tweeted.

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