The Chicago hospital gunman was fired from training academy after ‘bullying’ issues, official says
The gunman who killed three people at a Chicago hospital Monday afternoon was dismissed from the city’s fire academy in 2014 after “bullying” issues, a spokesman told CNN.
Juan Lopez was hired on to the Chicago Fire Department Academy on March 17, 2014, spokesman Larry Merritt said. The program is six months long.
Lopez disappeared from duty during a “discipline process” related to “issues dealing with bullying,” Merritt said, adding that he could not provide details.
The department contacted Lopez and told him to report back to the academy, Merritt said. He did not show up and was fired on May 22, 2014.
Lopez, 32, killed a Chicago police officer, a doctor and a pharmacy resident. Lopez died of a gunshot, though it is unclear whether he died from police gunfire or a self-inflicted wound, police said.
Shooter was in church with victim the day before shooting
One of the victims was Lopez’s former fiancée, Dr. Tamara O’Neal.
The two were engaged until late September, when she called off the engagement, her father, Tom O’Neal, said on Tuesday in a phone interview. The two were scheduled to marry in October.
Just one day before the shooting, Tammy, as her relatives knew her, attended church services Sunday with Lopez and her family in Indiana, where she was from, her father said.
Lopez “couldn’t accept” that the relationship was over, her father said.
O’Neal’s father said she was a strong believer and she and Lopez were not united in their faith.
“I just thank God for the 38 years we had with her. I was thinking we’d have a lot longer,” Tom O’Neal said. “We were expecting being grandparents, spoiling the grandchildren.
“She’s tremendously loved by her family. This isn’t all a loss,” he said. “The things she did, we’re going to hold on to those things.”
How the shooting unfolded
O’Neal had just finished her emergency room shift at Mercy Hospital when Lopez approached her in the parking lot, argued with her and shot her, officials said. Police haven’t said what led to the confrontation.
Responding police officers pursued the gunman into the hospital, exchanging gunfire with him for several minutes.
Lopez then shot and killed two more people — Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez and 25-year-old pharmacy resident Dayna Less, who was exiting an elevator, police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said.
The hospital’s emergency room department reopened Tuesday afternoon, and the entire facility is “functioning at near capacity,” said chief medical officer Dr. Michael Davenport.
The shooting drew large numbers of law enforcement and emergency responders. Vehicles with flashing lights cordoned off the blocks around the medical center.
When the gunman entered the facility, hospital worker Patricia Rinella and others barricaded themselves in a room, blocking a door with a copy machine, she told CNN affiliate WBBM.
“It was too close for comfort,” Rinella said. “It just seemed like he was all over the place.”
‘Just the best person ever’
O’Neal lived a hard-working life: She recently took on medicine as a second career; she helped needy children get school supplies; and she was dedicated to church, agreeing to work much of the weekend to guarantee Sundays off, her boss recalled Monday night.
“Just the best person ever. Really,” Dr. Patrick Connor, chairman of the hospital’s emergency department, told reporters as he tearfully paid tribute.
A native of Portage, Indiana, O’Neal had graduated from the University of Illinois-Chicago’s emergency medicine program in 2016, he said.
“Simply one of the most fascinating, hard-working persons,” Connor said. “Medicine was a second career for her. … She just started practicing here two years ago.”
O’Neal “fundraised every year for disadvantaged children, for first, second, third grade, to get all their school supplies,” he said.
And O’Neal was “completely dedicated to church” and its choir, arranging never to work on Sundays, Connor recalled.
“From last year, when I started here as chairman, that was her one thing that she wanted: ‘I want to be able to go to church on Sundays,'” Connor recalled. “I said, ‘OK, so you work Fridays and Saturdays, and we’ll make sure you go to church on Sunday.’
“Just will be sorely missed.”
O’Neal was a niece of Southern Illinois University assistant men’s basketball coach Anthony Beane Sr., her father said. She was a cousin of Beane’s son, SIU basketball player Darius Beane, who learned about his relative’s death from his father after a game Monday night, head coach Barry Hinson said.
“I would like for our fans to keep that family and other families’ members in their prayers,” Hinson told reporters.
Officer had just completed probation
Jimenez, the slain police officer, had just become a full-fledged member of the force, having completed a probationary training period after joining the department in February 2017, the police superintendent told reporters.
Jimenez and his partner went to the hospital when they heard dispatch traffic about the shooting there.
“They weren’t assigned to that particular call, but they went,” Johnson said, “because that’s what we do.”
Jimenez and Less, a pharmacy resident and recent Purdue University graduate, were killed during the shootout in the hospital, police said.
A bullet also hit the holster of a second officer, who was uninjured, Johnson said.
The responding officers “saved a lot of lives because we just don’t know how much damage he (the gunman) was prepared to do,” Johnson said.
Jimenez is survived by a wife and three children, Johnson said.