The gunman who shot and killed four people in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before taking his own life had been a back surgery patient determined to kill his surgeon over lingering pain and had legally bought the assault rifle he used in the shooting less than three hours prior to the tragedy.
Tulsa Police chief Wendell Franklin said Michael Louis, 45, who killed four people at the Saint Francis Hospital on Wednesday was found with a letter that stated his intent to kill Dr. Preston Phillips, who operated on him on May 19, ‘and anyone who got in his way’.
Franklin said Louis had called Phillips about lingering back pain for days and saw the doctor again on May 31 before returning the following day to kill the surgeon, along with Dr. Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Green and patient William Love.
Franklin added that Louis had used an AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle that he purchased at a local gun shop less than three hours before the shooting and was also armed with a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, which he purchased on May 29 at a pawn shop.
Police have recovered a total of 37 shell casings at the hospital, 30 from the rifle and seven from the pistol.
Michael Louis, 45, entered the Saint Francis Hospital on Wednesday to kill his back surgeon, Dr. Preston Phillips (pictured)
At least five people, including the gunman by self-inflicted gunshot, were killed in a shooting at Natalie Building at St Francis Hospital in Tulsa
Captain Richard Meulenberg of the Tulsa Police Department told reporters: ‘It’s a catastrophic scene in there right now’
A woman cries while talking on the phone outside at Memorial High School where people were evacuated from the scene
Family members hug as they are reunited at Memorial High School after being evacuated from the scene of a shooting at the Natalie Medical Building
St. Francis Health System locked down its campus Wednesday afternoon because of the situation at the Natalie Medical Building, an outpatient surgery center and a breast health center.
Franklin said police got a call at 4:52 p.m. on June 1 about the shooting taking place at the medical center, with police arriving at the scene four minutes later.
Officers breached the building at 4:57 p.m., hearing a gun shot seconds later believed to be the final shot that Louis fired to kill himself in Phillip’s office.
The Tulsa chief added that one of those killed in the attack had been struck when they were holding the door for others to escape.
Hospital President and CEO Dr. Cliff Robertson teared up as he recounted what happened in the hospital and lamented the loss of three of his staff members.
‘These were three of the best people in the entire world committed to taking care of others,’ Robertson said. ‘They didn’t deserve to die this way.’
Louis’s niece told The Daily Beast police contacted her family, adding that they did not want to be identified because they’re ‘disgusted’ over the shooting.
‘We are so distraught,’ she said. ‘I don’t even want to be associated because I’m so disgusted.
‘It’s just so shocking. Like, if he had killed himself, okay. But those innocent people, that’s what I’m hurting about,’ she added.
The Tulsa Police Department seen outside a Saint Francis medical building in Tulsa responding to a shooting on Wednesday afternoon
Police tape outside of the Natalie Medical Building in Tulsa as police respond to a shooting that killed five people
The Tulsa Police Department arrives at the Saint Francis medical building following reports of the shooting
City Council Jayme Fowler told reporters that the shooter was looking for the doctor, and it’s not yet clear if the doctor the gunman targeted was among the victims.
Authorities were also investigating if the gunman planted a bomb at a residence in Muskogee but said no explosives were found in the house following a search.
Tulsa police responded to the scene of the shooting within minutes and arrived while the shooting was ongoing, Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish said at a press conference.
‘The officers that did arrive were hearing shots in the building, and that’s what directed them to the second floor,’ he said.
Once gunfire ceased authorities searched the building ‘floor by floor, room by room,’ Captain Meulenberg said.
Aerial footage from a TV helicopter appeared to show first responders wheeling someone on a stretcher away from the hospital building.
Police said they are still working on identifying the the gunman and although they have not elaborated on the gunman’s motivation, Captain Richard Meulenberg told reporters: ‘It wasn’t random’
‘This wasn’t an individual who just decided he wanted to go find a hospital full of random people. He deliberately made a choice to come here and his actions were deliberate,’ he added.
‘There will obviously be many questions, and there will be a very bumpy road, I think, ahead of us,’ St. Francis Health System CEO Dr. Cliff Robertson said, adding that the shooting was a ‘senseless, horrible, incomprehensible act.’
President Biden was briefed on the shooting and said the White House was monitoring the situation.
‘The White House is closely monitoring the situation and has reached out to state and local officials to offer support,’ officials said in a statement.
Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stit also released a statement condemning the ‘senseless’ shooting and said he is offering Mayor G.T. Bynum any state resources that he may need.
‘What happened today in Tulsa is a senseless act of violence and hatred. Sarah and I are praying for the families of those who lost their lives and for those who were injured. I am grateful for the quick and brave actions of the Tulsa Police Department and other first responders who did their best to contain a terrible situation,’ he said.
‘I have offered Mayor G.T. Bynum any state resources that may be needed, and I ask all Oklahomans to come together in support of the Saint Francis Health System community and to grieve with those whose lives have been forever changed,’ Stit added.
The mass shooting comes just eight days after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two teachers before authorities shot and killed him
The tragic shooting has reignited the conversation around gun control.
House Democrats are already planning a vote next week on ‘red flag’ legislation, which allows a judge to ban dangerous individuals from having a firearm, and the Judiciary committee is holding an emergency session on Thursday to mark up right gun-violence bills, which includes measures to raise the minimum age for buying certain weapons to 21.
While Republicans see improving security at schools and tackling mental health problems as a more pressing need than restricting the availability of guns.