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Slain Mercy Hospital doctor called 911 before ex-fiance killed her

Doctors, hospital workers and friends gather Tuesday night to remember the lives of Dr. Tamara O'Neal and pharmacy resident Dayna Less, who were gunned down the day before in a shooting at Mercy Hospital. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Before she was fatally shot in a parking lot outside Mercy Hospital, Dr. Tamara O’Neal had time to call 911 and report that her ex-fiance was there with a gun.

A friend witnessed the altercation, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Tuesday as he offered details of exactly what happened the day before.

The ex-fiance, Juan Lopez, wanted the engagement ring back, Johnson said.

The disagreement quickly turned deadly. Lopez shot O’Neal, then opened fire on police who were arriving on the scene — about a minute after her initial 911 call, Johnson said.

“He shoots her, runs into the hospital,” Johnson said. That’s when, shooting randomly, he fatally wounded pharmacy resident Dayna Less as she was getting off an elevator.

Video by Annie Costabile

Johnson said Lopez then ran back outside and fired again at police, who had pulled their squad car up to shield O’Neal as she lay on the ground.

It was not immediately clear when Lopez shot and killed Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was among the officers who arrived outside the hospital. Jimenez died of a gunshot wound to the neck, the Cook County medical examiner said.

After going back inside the hospital, Lopez engaged in a running firefight with a SWAT team member as he fled down a hallway.

“He was kind of playing peek-a-boo with the officer,” Johnson said.

Chicago police said Lopez was carrying a Glock handgun with a magazine that contained up to 16 rounds, which he reloaded once.

At some point, Marian Mosley Deese, who was waiting in the Emergency Room at the hospital for a medical procedure, heard “code red” over the intercom. That changed to “code blue” and finally “code silver” — which nurses told her meant there was an active shooter.

“The nurses went into protection mode,” she said in a Facebook post. “Every piece of available equipment in that room was shoved to the door. … We heard the commotion and noise right outside the door. We heard the door handle being moved and we all held our breath and prayed. I then heard the yelling, ‘Chicago police show me your hands now!'”

In interview, she said she now believes the gunman was trying to get into the room where she was.

“Someone really wanted to get in. What could we have done? We had no weapons,” said Deese, of the South Loop. “You never think that a place you go to for help, someone would go to to hurt other people.”

But he didn’t get into the room, and neither she nor the nurses were harmed.

Lopez was shot by a SWAT officer, said Tom Ahern, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. An autopsy conducted Tuesday found that Lopez died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen, but he also suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, which was listed as a secondary factor to his cause of death. The medical examiner’s office ruled his death a homicide.

Mercy officials said they will review questions about the hospital’s response to the incident after Chicago police complete their investigation.

“There’s no way we could prepare for this. There’s no way we could adjust for it,” said Dr. Patrick Connor, Mercy chairman and emergency room director. “This is just a tragedy. It’s a senseless loss of life.”

Dr. Michael Davenport, Mercy’s chief medical officer, said hospital staff followed the “run, hide and fight” protocol in which they’d been trained to respond to an active shooter situation.

“How does one prepare for a catastrophe? You do the best you can, but when it happens, you react. And there’s no wrong thing to do,” Davenport said.

Johnson made his remarks at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, where an injured CPD officer had been taken after another shooting incident Tuesday. That officer was struck in his protective vest, and survived.

“You see these officers come out here today and put on that vest, put on that star, put on that gun, despite what happened” on Monday.

“Who does that? The CPD. That’s who does it,” Johnson said. “Those officers today and yesterday … they are heroes.”

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Contributing: Mark Brown, Frank Main