A Chicago police officer and three other people were killed in an attack at a South Side hospital Monday afternoon that sent medical personnel and police scrambling through stairwells and even the nursery in search of victims and the shooter before he was found dead.
Officer Samuel Jimenez, on the force since early 2017, was found in the lobby of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center at 2525 S. Michigan Ave. around 3:20 p.m., a police spokesman said.
The suspect, apparently shot in the head, was also found inside the hospital, as was a third person. The fourth person, apparently the gunman’s girlfriend, had been repeatedly shot outside.
The shooting began after the gunman confronted the girlfriend outside the hospital in Bronzeville, possibly over a “broken engagement,” sources said. The gunman shot the woman at least three times, then stood over her and fired some more, witnesses said. He then ran inside where he shot the officer and another person. The gunman fired at other officers, and a bullet struck the holster of one of them, burrowing into the side of his gun, sources said. A fragment of the bullet fell into his pocket.
It was not known how the gunman was shot.
James Gray said he saw at least two people get shot. Gray said he was coming out of the clinic area when he saw a man in a black coat, black hat and dark pants shoot a woman three times in the chest. The man and the woman had been walking and talking to each other before the shooting, he said. The gunman stood over the woman and shot her three more times after she fell to the ground, said Gray. Then a squad car turned its lights on and came down the drive and the gunman shot at the squad car.
“It was chaos,” said Gray. “It was just mass chaos.”
Gray said the gun looked like a 9 mm handgun; a police source said authorities had identified it as a 9 mm.
When the gunman came into the hospital, it appeared that he was shooting people at random, said Gray, who saw one other person shot.
“And then I ran into the X-ray department and locked the door behind us,” he said.
“I thought it was unbelievable,” said Gray. “It’s like a movie scene. Nothing like that ever happened to me before.”
Hector Avitia was watching television in a waiting room at the hospital with his wife when the woman was shot. Avitia watched through windows as a person in blue scrubs was shot outside and fell to the ground, he said. Officers exchanged fire with the shooter, and the shooter reloaded and fired again at the victim on the ground, Avitia said. The shooter then made his way inside the hospital as Avitia and those with him hid by a desk.
“Oh my God,” said Avitia, when asked how many gunshots he heard. “Reloaded twice. So 32 bullets each.”
Avitia said he had never seen anything like the shooting before. “I’ve heard shootings,” he said. “I’ve known people that have died in the neighborhood like that. But something like that? No.”
Avitia said he was more alert than scared for his life.
“It’s just a messed up situation and I was trying to help out as much as I could,” he said. “Get people to get out of the way of the windows. Because he could have easily just aimed at us, too. Because he was just shooting like a maniac. And he obviously knows how to shoot because he was holding the gun with both hands.”
Erix Horton, who works in environmental services at the hospital, spoke to a Tribune reporter while outside smoking a cigarette after being inside the hospital when the shooting occurred.
“I was checking out, getting ready to leave,” said Horton. “One of the nurses ran back here and it was like she was about to collapse and said (a staff member had) been shot. And she’s like, ‘Call the police. We have an active shooter.’ And that’s when everybody took cover. They got on the PA, letting everybody know.”
Horton said he took cover with others in the break room across from the ER, which has a combination lock, until police entered and escorted everyone out. A Fire Department crew that had just brought in a patient took cover in the room also, Horton said.
While in the break room, they could hear someone firing gunshots in the hallway, eight or nine of them, Horton said.
“We had to duck,” Horton said.
“A lot was going through my mind,” Horton said. “Make it home to see my wife and my kids.”
“Everybody was just worried about the rest of our coworkers making it out safe,” Horton said.
Moments after Charlie Wells walked into the emergency room to treat an injury, he heard gunfire and dove behind the registration desk. He sat huddled there with about 15 other people. He heard screams, and more gunfire.
Wells, 37, said people dropped to the ground. “It was chaos,” he said. “All panic.”
Tanisha Smith held her 10-year-old daughter’s hand and walked quickly away from Mercy Hospital. They were visiting Smith’s grandfather at the hospital when someone yelled at them to run. Smith grabbed her daughter and sprinted toward a waiting room, looking frantically for a door.
They couldn’t find one, so they hid under a desk.
“I heard gunshots,” the girl said while she clutched her mother’s hand while an officer hurried them away from the scene.
A hospital employee said she was in her office when a notice came over a public address system telling those in the hospital to lock their doors. They were later evacuated and people were put on CTA buses as authorities dealt with the situation.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said as she was ushered onto a bus.
“They told us to run so we did,” one hospital employee said.
Monique Hubbard and Jennifer Eldridge, who work together at a pharmacy in the hospital, had a patient recognize sounds as gunshots and urged them to take cover.
“We didn’t see anything,” said Hubbard. “We just heard the shots. And it was just, pop pop pop pop.”
Hubbard said they were helping a patient at a window who recognized the sounds of gunfire.
“And then when we heard it more, Jennifer said, check that window,” said Hubbard. “And we were shutting our shutters. And once we shut our shutters, the boss said, ‘Come on inside of the office.’ And then once we went in the office we felt more safe.”
In the confusion of the first moments, it was unclear how many people were shot, how many officers were among them and how many shooters there were.
As dispatchers and responding officers tried to make sense of the scene, reports came in of an officer shot somewhere in the lobby, a woman and a lab assistant also wounded. Finally, there was word of the gunman apparently shot in the head.
Even then, dispatchers continually checked whether more than one officer was shot and more than one gunman was involved and may still on the loose.
“How many officers shot,” a dispatcher asked repeatedly over the police-band radio.
“Trying to find that out,” an officer radioed.
Officers rushed to lock down the first floor of the hospital for a search, then closed off the stairwells. “We’re checking for victims,” a dispatcher said. “We also needs officers on the third floor to check the nursery.”
By 4 p.m., the officer was being taken via ambulance, with a police escort, to the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Meanwhile, medical personnel continued to be brought out of the hospital by police, who radioed ahead to warn officers outside. Family members of victims were routed to an area of the parking lot.
Erika Avalos and Mirabel Salto watched the aftermath of the shooting from a window in a medical office building across the street.
First they saw emergency vehicles rush in from all sides. About two dozen people began flooding out of the hospital, some running, some walking and some pushing people in wheelchairs.
Then Avalos saw medical professionals doing chest compressions on someone laying on a gurney that stood in the middle of the street.
They received alerts on their cell phones about an active shooter. They began dialing their colleagues who were working at the hospital, and they fielded calls from their family members.
“What’s going to happen now?” Avalos recalled thinking, fearful that the shooter may enter their building at some point.
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