February 22, 2024

A man who underwent back surgery last month stormed a Tulsa, Okla., medical building on Wednesday and killed four people, including the doctor who performed the surgery, with two guns he had purchased in recent days, the authorities said. His weapons included an AR-15-style rifle he bought just hours before the killings.

Chief Wendell Franklin of the Tulsa police said officers arrived at the medical office building on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital just before 5 p.m., within minutes of the gunfire starting, and rushed toward the site of the shooting. Chief Franklin said they found four victims, including two doctors. The gunman, who the chief said fatally shot himself, had been carrying a letter saying he blamed his surgeon for continuing back pain and intended to kill him and anyone who got in the way.

The killings in Oklahoma were the latest in a series of mass shootings that have rattled the country in recent weeks. Eight days before the Tulsa attack, 19 students and two teachers were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Earlier in May, 10 people were killed in a racist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo. Those were just two of hundreds of mass shootings — defined as shootings in which four or more people are killed or injured — that have been recorded in the United States in 2022.

“Law enforcement across the nation is dealing with increased violence,” Chief Franklin said, describing the attack in Tulsa as “yet another act of violence upon an American city.”

Police officers in Texas have been criticized for not moving more quickly to confront the gunman inside a school classroom. In a news conference on Thursday, Chief Franklin said Tulsa officers moved directly to where the gunman was believed to be, taking “immediate action without hesitation.” The chief said he believed the gunman killed himself at 4:58 p.m., two minutes after the police arrived at the building. He said officers had been moving toward the gunman and shouting out “Tulsa police!”

“I cannot emphasize enough that we train rigorously, over and over and over again, for not if but when,” Chief Franklin said Thursday. “Because we have seen the violence that has taken place throughout the United States, and we would be naïve” to think it would not happen in Tulsa.

Chief Franklin said the first 911 call came from an off-site patient who was in the middle of a video chat when a doctor inside the building told the patient to call the police and report a shooting.

Inside the building, employees and patients scrambled to get out. Gannon Gill, who runs an orthopedic urgent care clinic in the building, was wrapping up an appointment with a new patient on Wednesday when a loud noise startled him, he said in an interview. A few seconds later, he heard the noise again.

Mr. Gill, a physician assistant and a hunter, recognized the sounds as gunfire.

“There was an initial ‘What was that?’” Mr. Gill said. He turned to his patient and said: “Let’s go. I don’t think this is good.”

Jesus Jiménez and Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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