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TULSA, Okla. (NewsNation) — A man who blamed his surgeon for ongoing pain opened fire at a Tulsa hospital, killing the doctor and three other people before fatally shooting himself, police said Thursday.
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said the gunman had recently undergone back surgery and had called a clinic repeatedly complaining of pain.
Franklin said the doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Preston Phillips, was killed Wednesday, along with another doctor, a receptionist and a patient.
“We also have a letter on the suspect, which 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.”
Dr. Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Glenn and patient William Love were identified as the other victims. One of the victims held a door closed, which allowed someone to escape out of another door, Franklin said.
Dr. Cliff Robertson, president and CEO of Saint Francis Health System, called Phillips “the consummate gentleman” and “a man that we should all strive to emulate.” Phillips was an orthopedic surgeon with an interest in spinal surgery and joint reconstruction, according to a profile on the clinic’s website.
The three others who died were the best people in the entire world, Robertson said.
They “didn’t deserve to die this way,” he added.
Authorities said the gunman was armed with a rifle and a handgun. He bought an AR-15 rifle at 2 p.m. on the day of the shooting from a local gun shop, and the handgun from a local pawnshop. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Tulsa police first responded to the active shooter situation Wednesday afternoon. Franklin said a third party, who was not at the hospital, called police after a doctor who was on site told her to.
First responders arrived at 4:56 p.m., and then went to the building’s second floor. At 4:58 p.m., the gunman took his own life, Franklin said. At 5:24 p.m., police received a call from a sheriff’s office dispatcher who said a woman on the line called saying that her husband had killed several people at Dr. Phillips’ office.
Tulsa police told a local television station the scene inside the hospital was “catastrophic.” Most of the shooting occurred on the building’s second floor, and shots were still being fired when police entered the building, police said. They added the scene was “fairly limited” to one section of the second floor, and part of the shooting happened in an orthopedic center.
There was still a police presence at Saint Francis on Thursday morning. The hospital has canceled most appointments scheduled before noon Thursday, and the wing of Saint Francis where the shooting happened has been closed.
Gannon Gill, a physician’s assistant, told the New York Times he guided patients through a maze of exam rooms and hallways away from the gunfire. He eventually made his way to a nearby parking lot, where he ran into a patient.
That man told Gill he and his wife ran into the gunman during the attack, and the shooter told the couple to leave because he was not there for them.
“You see this stuff on television or the news,” Gill said to The Times, “but you don’t think it’s ever going to happen in your workplace.”
Robertson asked for prayers at a news conference Wednesday night.
‘We’re an organization that believes in the power of prayer and there is nothing more this community could do for us than to pray for the families and the loved ones and the victims of this senseless act,” Robertson said.
Robertson and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum both acknowledged first responders for their quick response time to the hospital, which police said was four to five minutes from when the 911 call came in.
“I also want to express our community’s profound gratitude for the broad range of first responders who did not hesitate today to respond to this act of violence,” Bynum said.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called the shooting a “senseless act of violence and hatred” and said on Twitter that he and his wife were “praying” for the victims and their families.
“I am grateful for the quick and brave actions of the Tulsa Police Department and other first responders who did their best to contain a terrible situation,” Stitt wrote. “I have offered Mayor G.T. Bynum any state resources that may be needed, and I ask all Oklahomans to come together in support of the Saint Francis Health System community and to grieve with those whose lives have been forever changed.”
Saint Francis Hospital is the largest hospital system in Tulsa, according to retired Tulsa police Officer Sean Larkin. Robertson said it employs more than 10,000 people.
“This campus is sacred ground for our community,” Bynum said. “For decades, this campus has been a place where heroes come to work every day to save the lives of people in our community.”
This is the 233rd mass shooting of the year, including a massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers, and a racially motivated attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story is breaking and will be updated.