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Crime News Breaking News

Chicago Hospital Shooting That Killed 3 Possibly Triggered By Domestic Dispute

Juan Lopez is suspected of fatally shooting three people at Chicago's Mercy Hospital and Medical Center before he also died.

By Gina Tron

A gunman opened fire Monday at a Chicago hospital, killing a police officer and two hospital employees in an attack that began with a domestic dispute and exploded into a firefight with law enforcement inside the medical center. The suspect was also dead, authorities said.

It was not clear if the attacker took his own life or was killed by police at Mercy Hospital on the city's South Side, the police chief said.

The suspect has been identified as Juan Lopez, 32, WLS-TV in Chicago reports.

Police believe he specifically targeted one of the victims who died in the attack: Dr. Tamara O'Neal, a 38-year-old emergency room physician who never worked on Sunday because of her faith. Dayna Less, 25, a first-year pharmacy resident who had recently graduated from Purdue University, and Samuel Jimenez, 28, a police officer, were also killed.

Chicago "lost a doctor, pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, fighting back tears. "This just tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil."

O'Neal called off an engagement with the gunman in September, WLS-TV in Chicago reports.

Before the shooting began, the former pair had a confrontation in the parking lot of Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.

When a friend of O'Neal's tried to intervene, police say that the gunman showed his gun.

Before O’Neal was shot, she and Lopez reportedly began yelling over a ring, a witness told WGN9 in Chicago.

The witness claimed Lopez demanded O’Neal give him a ring, one that O’Neal said she didn’t have, according to the witness account.

"The guy comes really quickly from behind the van and just pulls out a gun and shoots her six times before she even hits the ground," they said.

When officers arrived, the suspect fired at their squad car and then ran inside the hospital. The police gave chase.

Inside the medical center, the gunman exchanged fire with officers and "shot a poor woman who just came off the elevator" before he was killed, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

"We just don't know how much damage he was prepared to do," Johnson said, adding that the woman who was getting off the elevator "had nothing to do with nothing."

Television footage of the aftermath showed several people, including some wearing white coats, walking through a parking lot with their arms up.

Jennifer Eldridge was working in a hospital pharmacy when she heard three or four shots that seemed to come from outside. Within seconds, she barricaded the door, as called for in the building's active shooter drills. Then there were six or seven more shots that sounded much closer, just outside the door.

"I could tell he was now inside the lobby. There was screaming," she recalled.

The door jiggled, which Eldridge believed was the shooter trying to get in. Some 15 minutes later, she estimated, a SWAT team officer knocked at the door, came inside and led her away. She looked down and saw blood on the floor but no bodies.

"It may have been 15 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity," she said.

Maria Correa hid under a desk, clutching her 4-month-old son, Angel, while the violence unfolded. Correa was in the waiting area of the hospital for her mother-in-law's doctor appointment when a hospital employee told them to lock themselves in offices.

She lost track of how many shots she heard while under the desk "trying to protect her son" for 10 to 15 minutes.

"They were the worst minutes of our lives," Correa said.

Dennis Burke, who lives across the street from the hospital, was getting off the bus when he heard six gunshots and saw officers nearby with their guns drawn.

"I dropped my groceries," Burke said. He ducked behind the bus for cover and watched as 50 to 100 people poured out of the hospital, including someone on a stretcher.

People "were helping each other over the fence, trying to get away," Burke said. "People were running across the street, right past me — everybody from doctors to what looked like patients, people of all ages."

The death of Jimenez, a married father of three, comes nine months after another member of the Chicago Police Department, Cmdr. Paul Bauer, was fatally shot while pursuing a suspect in the Loop business district.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[Photo: Facebook]