Officials in Tulsa, Okla., said the gunman who killed four people in the shooting at Saint Francis Hospital, including two doctors, a receptionist and a patient, on Wednesday evening had blamed his surgeon for ongoing pain after a recent back surgery and bought an AR-style rifle hours before the killings.
At a press conference in Tulsa on Thursday morning, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin identified the victims as Dr. Preston Phillips, Dr. Stephanie Husen, Amanda Green and William Love, as well as the suspect, Michael Louis, who was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Franklin said that investigators have a letter in which Louis “blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery” and “made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way.”
He said the other three victims “stood in the way” as the shooter targeted Phillips, stating that Green was a receptionist and Love a patient.
The chief said that the gunman purchased the rifle at a local gun store at 2 p.m. Wednesday, less than three hours before the shooting at the medical building. Police recovered an assault-style rifle as well as a handgun, which was purchased by the suspect on May 29.
Dr. Cliff Robertson, the hospital’s president and CEO, said that the clinic had responded to Louis’s concerns about lingering pain and that he had attended an appointment the day prior to the shooting.
Robertson described Phillips as a “consummate gentleman” who “we should all strive to emulate” and said that the fact someone would go after him was “mind-blowing.” He said Phillips’ clinic would sometimes run behind schedule because he spent so much time with patients.
“Not only is it a shock but it’s the ultimate loss for Saint Francis and Tulsa,” Robertson said.
“The three best people in the entire world who are the most committed to doing what they do every day and taking care of others didn’t deserve to die this way,” he added about Phillips, Husen and Green
Robertson said they weren’t aware of Phillips having any concerns about his safety or this patient in particular. When asked about protocols to deal with potential incidents like this, Robertson said, “Nothing that we have in place —I don’t know if any health system in the country has in place — can stop somebody with two weapons that are hell bent on causing harm.”
The shooting came a week after 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and three weeks after a shooting at a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y. that killed 10. As the briefing was going on, Congress was holding a hearing on potential gun safety measures in the House Judiciary Committee.
At times, the briefing felt like a response to authorities in Texas, at Robb Elementary School.
“It is remarkable that we could be here 17 hours later … and hear such a detailed breakdown of what happened from Chief Franklin,” Robertson told reporters, drawing an apparent contrast to the ongoing confusion surrounding the details of what happened in Uvalde more than a week after the deadly shooting there.
“I cannot emphasize enough that we train rigorously over and over and over again for not if, but when, because we have seen the violence that has taken place all over the United States and we would be naive not to think that that would happen in our jurisdiction,” Franklin said.
Asked to describe the Tulsa Police Department’s policy for responding to an active shooter, Franklin also seemed to differentiate his department’s approach from that of the officers who responded to the school shooting in Uvalde, where more than a dozen members off law enforcement waited in the hallway outside the classroom as children inside called 911 pleading for help.
“When we get that call we are going to disregard any safety measures that we might have for ourselves and we are going to go into the building to deal with the threat,” said Franklin. “Our philosophy is we will stop the threat and we will do that by any means necessary.”