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November 20, 2018

How Mercy Hospital staff responded when an active shooter entered the ED

Daily Briefing

    *Editors note: This story has been updated.  

    An ED physician, a pharmacy resident, and a police officer are dead after a gunman opened fire on Monday afternoon at Mercy Hospital in Chicago. The gunman, who fired shots in the parking lot before moving into the ED, is dead as well.

    From shootings to hurricanes: How can your hospital prepare for disasters?

    Active shooter enters Mercy

    Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the shooting was a domestic incident. The alleged gunman, Juan Lopez, at about 3:30 p.m. approached Tamara O'Neal, one of the hospital's emergency physicians, in the hospital's parking lot. Lopez had begun arguing with O'Neal when a friend of O'Neal's tried to intervene.

    The gunman then lifted his shirt to expose the gun to O'Neal's friend, who fled the scene. Moments later, Lopez repeatedly shot O'Neal. The two previously had a relationship, according to Johnson.

    Johnson said they received two 911 calls in quick succession to report an assault and gunshots. When police officers arrived at the scene, the gunman opened fire on the police before they could leave their vehicles and fled into the ED.

    The police officers followed Lopez into the hospital, where they exchanged gunfire with him. The gunman fatally injured Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was taken to University of Chicago Hospital in critical condition and later died, and Dayna Less, a first-year pharmacy resident who exited a hospital elevator during the gunfire exchange.

    Lopez died in the incident, police said. According to Johnson, it is unclear whether Lopez died from police gunfire or a self-inflicted wound. 

    At 4:40 p.m., Mercy Health in a tweet wrote that the hospital's "patients are safe." Johnson said the police officers "saved a lot of lives because we just don't know how much damage [the gunman] was prepared to do."

    How the hospital responded

    Police officers and the hospital's medical personnel sprang into action after the gunman entered the building. They searched for victims and the gunman in the hospital's hallways, stairwells, and the nursery area before they learned the gunman had died. Hospital employees noted the shooting occurred in the hospital's outpatient area.

    Clarence Smith, a hospital worker, said, "Our first goal was to start grabbing patients out of the rooms. You don't know if the active shooter is down the hall or not. You had to put the blinders on and just keeping moving forward, and that's what I did."

    Hospital employees attempted to move ill patients outside the hospital for their own safety, while others huddled in hospital rooms. According to the New York Times, the hospital evacuated some patients from its ED, but Chicago police ordered more than 20 patients in the hospital's ED to stay down.

    A pharmacy technician closed the hospital's pharmacy rolling shutter down, locked the pharmacy's door, and ran into hiding in the pharmacy's back area—waiting for about 30 minutes before the police notified them that it was safe to come out. According to pharmacy workers, Lopez attempted to enter the pharmacy and shot through the pharmacy's window after he entered the hospital. Monique Hubbard, a pharmacy worker said, "He was jiggling on the door, trying to come in."

    Michael Davenport, Mercy's CMO, said Mercy last month conducted an active shooter drill to practice the hospital's emergency plans, which include barricading doors and maintaining patients safety.

    "Never in our wildest imagination would we ever think that we would have to experience the day we have," Davenport said. He added, "It is our inclination, I can speak for myself, you don't feel well when you're hiding. You want to open up a door and you want to see what's going on and you want to help. But everyone did what they were trained to do" (Grinberg et al., CNN ,11/20; Buckley et al., Chicago Tribune, 11/20; Smith, New York Times, 11/19; WLS TV, 11/19; Madani/Johnson, NBC News, 11/19; Madhani/Ortiz, USA Today, 11/19; Thielking, "Morning Rounds," STAT News, 11/20; Madhani, USA Today, 11/19)

    From shootings to hurricanes: How can your hospital prepare for disasters?

    Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

    Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

    Download the Resources

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