A gunman opened fire at a Chicago Catholic hospital on Monday, setting off a frantic scene that ended with three victims killed and the assailant dead, police said.
The incident shocked Catholic leaders, and they offered words of condolence to the victims and their families.
The Chicago incident occurred at Mercy Hospital and Medical Centre on the city’s South Side. The dead included a young police officer and two hospital employees, among them a doctor and a pharmacy resident.
Police said the gunman also died, but that they were unsure if he turned the gun on himself or was shot by responding officers.
Officer Samuel Jimenez, 28, who was on the force for less than two years, was gunned down as he responded to a call for help from other officers responding to a report of gunfire at the hospital. He was married with three young children, a police spokesman said.
The Chicago Tribune reported that police were called to the hospital after Juan Lopez, 32, confronted emergency room doctor Tamara O’Neal, apparently over a “broken engagement.”
Witnesses said the gunman arrived about 3:30pm and got into an argument with O’Neal outside of the emergency room before repeatedly shooting her. He ran into the hospital when police responded, exchanging gunfire with officers.
The third person killed was Dayna Less, 25.
A second officer was shot, but the bullet lodged in his service revolver, a police spokesman said.
Hospital staff rushed to move patients in the chaotic setting and hid inside locked storage areas and surgery rooms, according to witnesses.
In a statement issued immediately after police secured the scene, the hospital expressed sadness and shock over the incident. The hospital remained in lockdown as police conducted their investigation and the emergency department was to be closed today, the statement said.
“Mercy Hospital and all other Trinity Health Hospitals regularly plan for emergencies, and last month Mercy Hospital completed an active shooter drill,” the hospital added.
“All of us at Mercy Hospital and Trinity Health pray for the victims and their families,” the statement concluded.
Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said that the three victims were “senselessly killed as they went about their day.”
In a statement released by the archdiocese, the cardinal called for society to “take a hard look at what is happening in our homes and in our communities.”
“Fear and violence are an unending cycle that must be broken. It is well past time. We must act,” he said, noting that 2,600 people have been victims of gun violence in Chicago during 2018.
He also offered prayers for the victims, families and friends as well as “those who work to maintain the peace and heal the sick here and around the world.”
“Let us pray for healing in our city and turn our sorrow and sympathy to action,” the statement concluded.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted the Chicago incident was “at a place which should be a centre of healing” and called it “a senseless act of gun violence.”
He called on the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe to bring comfort to all people full of sorrow over the shooting.
The cardinal also said the country’s bishops “will continue to ask that public policies be supported to enact reasonable gun measures to help curb this pervasive plague of gun violence.”
Photo: A crime scene at Mercy Hospital and Medial Centre in Chicago is seen following a shooting on Monday.
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