Tulsa police described a “catastrophic scene” inside a medical office building in south Tulsa where five people died and multiple more were injured during a mass shooting on Wednesday afternoon.
The shooter, who took his own life, was armed with a rifle and a handgun as he entered Saint Francis Health System’s Natalie Building, 6475 S. Yale Ave., and began shooting both guns just before 5 p.m., Tulsa Police Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish said.
Police said the shooting occurred in an orthopedic clinic on the Natalie Building’s second floor. Saint Francis Hospital’s online directory says Warren Clinic Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine and orthopedic urgent care is located on the second floor, with nine physicians listed.
Saint Francis Health System released a statement Wednesday night saying it is “grieving the loss of four members of our family,” but it did not release the names or positions of those killed or injured. (Update: Those killed were Dr. Preston Phillips, 59; Dr. Stephanie Husen, 48; receptionist Amanda Glenn, 40; and William Love, 73, who was accompanying a patient.)
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The orthopedic offices will be closed until further notice, the statement says.
The shooter’s identity had not been released by Wednesday night, but information from the Muskogee Police Department indicates that he might be from that city and might have left a bomb in a house there before coming to Tulsa.
The exact time the shooter began firing is not known yet, Dalgleish said, but the first 911 call was reported to officers at 4:52 p.m. The first officers arrived at 4:56 p.m. and could hear gunshots leading them to the second floor, where they made contact with the victims and the shooter at 5:01 p.m., Dalgleish said.
A Tulsa police spokesperson said there were multiple injuries but that police had not received a total count of injured people.
Officers searched the building floor by floor looking for potential victims and rescuing people who had been hiding from the gunman.
Saint Francis Health Systems CEO Cliff Robertson said during a press conference late Wednesday evening that the most powerful thing anyone can do right now is pray.
“There is nothing more this community can do for us than pray for the families and loved ones of the victims of this senseless act,” Robertson said. “It will be a very bumpy road ahead of us.
“There are over 10,000 of us who are part of the Saint Francis Health System that every day commit their lives to taking care of people in need. This horrible, incomprehensible act is not going to change that.”
Mayor G.T. Bynum went to the hospital Wednesday evening and during the press conference challenged Tulsa residents to think about the doctors and nurses who work at Saint Francis and how much they mean to the Tulsa community.
“I know there are so many people out there who want to know what you can do to support the community and Saint Francis Health System through this tragedy,” Bynum said.
“I don’t have one thing right now. I would ask you to think about the Saint Francis Health System and what the people that work there mean to our community, what they mean to you and your family. The heroes who protect you. Think about what you can do to show your support for them in the midst of this tragedy.”
When asked about the slew of mass shootings that have happened around the country since the Buffalo, New York, shooting in May, Bynum said he is focusing on Tulsa’s victims and that talks about policy change can come later.
“Right now my thoughts are with the victims here, many of whose families don’t even know about this yet,” Bynum said. “If we want to have a policy discussion, that is something to be had in the future, but not tonight. Not tonight.”
Police had asked family members of people affected by the shooting to go to Memorial High School, where a reunification site was located. Bynum made a brief visit to those waiting at the school around 8 p.m.
Within moments of the first 911 call, a flood of police cars and other first responders filled the streets and parking lots around the medical office building, closing Yale Avenue from 61st Street to at least 65th Street. Over 100 first responder vehicles were in the area, and officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from the U.S. Marshals Service came to the scene.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt released a statement saying he has offered any state resource Tulsa officials might need.
Kelsey Hoursey, who works in a different medical building on Saint Francis’ campus, said she couldn’t leave at the end of her work day on Wednesday.
When she first got outside the building she works in, she discovered that both exits from the parking lot were blocked by police cars. Then she learned from other bystanders that police had responded to an active shooter in the complex, and she was too shaken to drive home right away, even when she could move her car.
“I lost my adult son to gun violence in April, so this hits too close to home. I’m still processing that — and I’ve worked in every one of these buildings over the years,” said Hoursey, who currently serves as a clinical assistant at Warren Clinic Gastroenterology.
Hoursey paced near her car in the parking lot directly opposite the front entrance to the Natalie Building, responding to frantic texts and calls from her other children and relatives who were inquiring about her safety.
“I’m going to be praying over these families affected by this today and for the love of Jesus over this country,” she said, shaking her head. “This is historic what is happening in this country right now — it feels like the enemy is growing nearer.”
Across the street from the Natalie Building, Robin Cox stood looking at the fortress of law enforcement vehicles blocking the entrance to the building.
“It breaks my heart. You try not to cry in front of people, but I’m sure I’m going to go home tonight and it’s going to bother me.”
Cox, a 37-year-old mother of four, had just left work at the Springer Building on the west side of Yale Avenue.
“People taking innocent lives. They have families. (They are) taking people from their loved ones.”
Tulsa City Councilor Connie Dodson happened to be at the Saint Francis emergency room when it was locked down about 4:20 p.m., she said.
“They locked it down without announcing anything, but then people heard the large presence of police and responders in the area and were getting alerts on their phones,” Dodson said.
The lockdown lasted less than an hour, she said.
“There were approximately 30 people in the ER at the time, but everyone was calm and watching the activity outside and live reports on the TV,” Dodson said.
City Councilor Jayme Fowler grew up just blocks from where the shootings occurred and now represents the neighborhood on the council.
“It’s just tragic,” he said. “You never think something like this would happen in our sleepy city.”
Kevin Canfield and Andrea Eger contributed to this story.