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A terminally ill physician stormed into a pediatrician’s Austin, Texas office Monday afternoon with “numerous guns” and killed Dr. Katherine Lindley Dodson after a lengthy standoff with police before taking his own life.
Police are still trying to determine what connection, if any, suspect Bharat Narumanchi—who had last practiced in California—had with Dodson, 43, or why he wanted to target the Children’s Medical Group office.
Austin Police Lt. Jeff Greenwalt said authorities received a call around 4:30 p.m. Monday about a man who had entered the medical office with a gun and taken numerous hostages.
“There were five people inside the building when the suspect arrived and all of them were adult employees,” Greenwalt said in a press conference following the “horribly tragic” murder-suicide.
Greenwalt said the 43-year-old Narumanchi—who had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer—“displayed a gun and told the hostages to tie themselves up”; however, four of the hostages were either able to escape or were “ultimately released” leaving only Dodson, a married mom of three, behind.
“He pointed his gun at my co-worker and told her to go get the doctor ... and then he points the gun at me and tells me to go lock the front door," hostage Victoria Ishaak later told the Austin American-Statesman.
By the time police arrived at the scene, Greenwalt said all four of the hostages who were either released or had escaped were already outside the building and were able to provide authorities with information about what was going on inside.
A SWAT unit was quickly called, but officers were unable to make contact with Narumanchi inside the building.
“They were not able to make contact with anybody inside, were not able to establish communications and were not able to hear anything as far as a disturbance or calls for help or gunshots or anything like that,” Greenwalt said.
After several hours, the SWAT team was “able to get eyes inside of the business” using a robot and determined that both Dodson and Narumanchi were dead. The deaths have been classified as a murder-suicide.
Authorities are now trying to determine what prompted Narumanchi, who had been a pediatrician himself, to target the medical office.
Greenwalt said a week or two before the deadly incident, Narumanchi had gone into the office to apply for a volunteer position but was told no. Authorities don’t know whether that rejection prompted him to return to the office or not.
“We also know that the suspect, Dr. Narumanchi had terminal cancer and was only given weeks to live, so we feel like his terminal cancer probably played a large part in whatever it was that occurred in his life,” he said.
Police said other than Narumanchi’s visit to the office to try to volunteer, police “don’t know at this time of any other contact” that Narumanchi or Dodson may have had with one another.
They are asking that anyone who knew Narumanchi that might know what had been going on in his life or his thought process to call police.
“For all intents and purposes, the case as far as who did this is closed,” Greenwalt said. “We know who did it and we know there’s no longer a threat to the public, but we really, really want to answer the question of why and provide as many facts and circumstances to the family and friends that we can and provide as much closure in this tragic situation as we can.”
Greenwalt said Narumanchi’s family had been as surprised as anyone else about the hostage situation.
In a statement to KEYE-TV, Narumanchi’s parents said the “consequences” of their son’s actions would “live with us forever.”
‘We don’t understand our son’s motives or actions but we feel this time is best spent remembering Dr. Dodson and her contributions to this world,” they said. “We are cooperating with the investigators as they seek to make sense of this tragedy.”
Narumanchi had mostly recently practiced as a pediatrician at Providence Health Services in California, according to the local paper.
He completed his pediatric residency training at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii and had received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada.
While in Hawaii in 2012, Narumanchi filed from divorce from his wife, local station KXAN reports. Court records show the couple had shared joint custody of their daughter and connected Narumanchi to an address in Austin.
The people who live at the home have the same last name, but Narumanchi is not listed as one of the owners, according to the outlet.
The same year he filed for divorce, Narumanchi was charged with domestic abuse. The case was later dismissed, but court records suggest he had a contentious relationship with his ex-wife, The Austin American-Statesman reports.
In court documents he described his former wife as “a hapless person from her childhood” who had “decided to marry me, a born U.S. citizen and thus gain what she coveted and dreamt of—the U.S. citizenship that eluded her.”
In a statement from Dodson’s family to the Austin American-Statesman, the slain pediatrician was described as a “dedicated mom, wife, daughter, friend and pediatrician” who “radiated light, love and joy in everything she did.”
“She brightened our lives and lifted us up with her laughter, which was like magic,” her family said. “We are all better because of her.”
Loved ones said they are “beyond devastated at the tragic, sudden and senseless loss of our beloved Lindley.”
Karen Vladeck, whose two young children had been patients of Dodson, described her to the paper as someone who always had a smile on her face.
“She made you feel like you were the only parent there, even though there was a line of kids waiting,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett also reflected on his personal connection to the respected pediatrician, saying in a post on Twitter that Dodson had cared for two of his grandchildren.
“Last night, in a horrifying act of gun violence, one of our most skilled, compassionate pediatricians, Dr. Lindley Dodson, was held hostage and murdered at her Central Austin office,” he wrote. “She provided care for our youngest 2 grandchildren & so many other children across the community.”
Dodson had grown up in Louisiana and attended Louisiana State University Medical School, the Austin American-Statesman reports. She completed her residency at the prestigious Vanderbilt University and had worked as an instructor for the Harvard Medical School before moving to Texas in 2007 to work as a pediatric hospitalist at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.
She left in 2017 to start her own private practice.
“We are shocked and saddened by this news, and our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Dodson’s family, friends and colleagues,” Dell Children’s Medical Center said in a statement to the paper. “Dr. Dodson was a hard-working and compassionate provider who will be greatly missed.”
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