Once again, it has happened in The Land of the Free. Again, several American families have lost a loved one, taken in a senseless act of targeted gun violence; this time, in a Chicago hospital. As is the case in 57% of mass shootings (Everytown for Gun Safety, 2017), this week’s bloodshed stemmed from the scourge of domestic violence. But unfortunately, most of the media coverage doesn’t include that term in the headlines. Instead, the focus is diverted to sensationalized accounts of on-the-scene mayhem, and the familiar shock of another so-called “safe place” being rocked by gunfire. If we are ever to stop the issue of domestic violence and the public violence it often becomes, we need to begin with the simple act of calling it what it is. Domestic homicide is not a “marital dispute,” a “lover’s triangle,” or simply “a tragic shooting.” It is the culmination of a long-standing, power and control structure, initiated by an abuser who could not tolerate his partner’s rejection. It is DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, plain and simple, and once again, it has caused the death of multiple innocent people,
On the afternoon of November 19th, 2018, 32-year-old Juan Lopez arrived at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital, the workplace of his ex-fiancée, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, 38. According to emergency room clerk Steven Mixon, the perpetrator called the victim’s workplace before the incident. “He called and asked to speak with his fiancée,” Mixon told reporters, “And she said, ‘Oh, just tell him I’m in with a patient.’ Lopez then showed up in person, in what threat assessors refer to as “an increase in approach proximity.” The two ended up in the parking lot of the facility, either because he ambushed her as she was leaving work, or possibly because Dr. O’Neal didn’t want to endanger others and be humiliated by Lopez’s behavior in front of patients and co-workers. As I frequently explain to corporate training audiences, the parking lot is a “hot spot” for violence, particularly in buildings that may be difficult to access entirely, due to security. Apparently, a co-worker attempted to step in and check on the victim’s safety, when Lopez raised his shirt and brandished a gun tucked into his waistband. Dr. O’Neal reportedly told her colleague that she was afraid, saying “He’s going to kill me.” As the co-worker ran back toward the building to call 911, Lopez demanded that Dr. O’Neal return the engagement ring he had given her. When she replied that she did not have it on her, he opened fire, shooting her three times, and then delivering three more bullets into her body as she lay on the ground, a prime example of the “overkill” sometimes seen in domestic violence homicides.
Lopez, a man with a documented history of domestic violence and workplace bullying, opened fire on responding officers before they had even left their vehicles. He then entered the building, sending patients and staff scurrying for cover, as he exchanged gunfire with police. He is said to have fired at least 30 bullets. One of those hit 24-year-old pharmacy resident Dayna Less, who had the unfortunate luck of stepping off an elevator and into chaos. She was killed in the lobby, as was 28-year-old Officer Samuel Jiminez. Lopez died there too, either from a police bullet to the abdomen, or a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
While it’s unclear whether or not Mercy Hospital knew about Dr. O’Neal’s situation, there is no doubt that employers everywhere can help to prevent similar nightmares by implementing a domestic violence response and prevention program. Had precautions been taken and a safety plan put in place before tragedy struck, perhaps a brilliant doctor, a brave police officer, and a young pharmacist would still be here today, helping their community by doing the jobs they loved. For the rest of us, the time to act in preventing future workplace attacks is now.
Presage Consulting and Training, LLC is a boutique threat assessment and management firm focused solely on domestic violence. We offer customized training sessions on a variety of domestic violence topics. Choose from Corporate Training, Law Enforcement Training, Domestic Violence Training & Other Social Service Organizations.