(AP) – A gunman who killed his surgeon and three other people at a Tulsa medical office blamed the doctor for his continuing pain after a recent back operation and bought an AR-style rifle just hours before the rampage, police said on Thursday.
The patient called the clinic repeatedly complaining of pain and specifically targeted the doctor who performed the surgery, then killed himself as police arrived, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said.
That physician, Dr Preston Phillips, was killed Wednesday, along with Dr Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Glenn and visitor William Love, police said. The attack occurred on the campus of Saint Francis Health System in Tulsa. The chief identified the shooter as Michael Louis, 45, of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Louis carried a letter that said he was targeting Phillips, Franklin said. The letter “made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr Phillips and anyone who got in his way,” Franklin said. “He blamed Dr Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.”
Franklin said Phillips performed the surgery on May 19 and Louis was released from the hospital on May 24.
He said Louis called the doctor’s office “several times over several days” reporting he was still in pain and saw Phillips on Tuesday for “additional treatment”. Louis called the office again Wednesday “complaining of back pain and wanting additional assistance,” he said.
Phillips, 59, was an orthopedic surgeon with an interest in spinal surgery and joint reconstruction, according to a profile on the clinic’s website. He once served as lead physician for Tulsa’s WNBA team before the franchise moved out of state, according to the Tulsa World.
Dr Cliff Robertson, president and CEO of Saint Francis Health System, called Phillips a “consummate gentleman” and “a man that we should all strive to emulate.” He said the three employees who were killed were “the three best people in the entire world” and that they “didn’t deserve to die this way”.
Husen was 48 and Glenn was 40, officials said.
Love, a 73-year-old retired Army sergeant, was a patient at the clinic but that day he was accompanying his wife, Deborah, for her six-month checkup, said their daughter, Karen Denise Love.
Police have received reports that Love held a door shut in hopes of allowing others to flee from the gunman through another door, Franklin said in response to reporters’ questions.
Karen Love said her parents were in an examination room with one of Phillips’ assistants when the couple heard the commotion outside. When they realized it was gunshots, Karen Love said her father grabbed the door handle from inside the room.
“As they heard this guy going up and down the hall, they knew it was gunfire,” Karen Love said. “They thought it was someone just shooting people. My dad was trying to hold the door the best he could.”
Police believe Louis bought his weapons legally, Franklin said. Louis bought an AR-style semi-automatic rifle on the afternoon of the shooting and a handgun on Sunday, the police chief said.
Franklin praised the law enforcement officers, 911 operators and emergency for their “immediate response” to the attack Wednesday. Police responded to the call about three minutes after dispatchers received the report at 4:52 p.m. and made contact with the gunman at 5:01 p.m., authorities said Wednesday.
Franklin said police believe Louis shot himself about 39 seconds after the first officers entered the building.