5 dead after shooting at Tulsa's Saint Francis Hospital: 'This campus is sacred ground for our community'

Updated 2:00 p.m., June 2

Four people were killed Wednesday on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., by a man carrying a rifle and a handgun, according to media reports citing local law enforcement.

Police did not release the identity of the attacker, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after making contact with law enforcement. Others who were wounded did not have life-threatening injuries, police said.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin told press the gunman targeted and killed a doctor who had performed back surgery on him last month, blaming him for ongoing pain following the procedure. 

The other three deceased were a doctor, a receptionist and a patient who "stood in the way," Franklin said. 

The attack is the latest in a series of mass shootings across the country that include a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and a supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York. The attacks have reignited debates on gun violence and access to weapons among politicians, the public and the healthcare industry alike.

“Yesterday was another unfortunate example of gun violence in our country,” American Hospital Association (AHA) president and CEO Rick Pollack said in a Thursday morning statement. “We grieve with the victims and their families, as well as the entire Saint Francis Health System team, as they mourn the loss of four members of their community."

The shooter’s attack occurred inside Saint Francis Hospital’s Natalie Medical Building, which houses an outpatient surgery center, a breast health center and an orthopedic clinic, police said. The shooter and the victims’ bodies were all found by police in the orthopedic clinic on the building’s second floor, they said.

Tulsa Police Department Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish said officers responded within three minutes to a report made at 4:52 p.m. and made contact with the gunman at 5:01 p.m., the AP reported.

Saint Francis Health System locked down the 1,112-bed hospital’s entire campus during the attack. The health system has more than 10,000 employees and is the largest private employer in Tulsa County.

“This campus is sacred ground for our community,” Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum told reporters. “For decades, this campus has been a place where people have come to work—heroes have come to work—every day to save the lives of people in our community. Just in the last two years, in the greatest public health crisis our city has ever had to face, this has been the facility more than any other that has worked to save the lives of people in this city."

Bynum commended the city's various first responders for their quick response and the support they were providing to the hospital but punted reporters' questions regarding the national conversation on gun violence.

“Right now my thoughts are with the victims in here, many of whose families don’t even know about this yet,” he continued. “So if we want to have a policy discussion, that is something to be had in the future, but not tonight.”

AHA’s Pollack, however, said the shooting “further reinforces the need for action to be taken to stop these tragic events. Legislators are working on a bipartisan effort to address gun violence, and we urge them to act quickly.”

Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH), concurred.

"Patients and caregivers deserve to feel safe and secure when they enter our nation’s medical centers. Access to hospitals, schools, and other vital, everyday institutions must be protected by attending to the core causes of these violent acts," he said. "As we mourn the loss of more victims to another senseless shooting, it is mission critical for Congress to act now. We hope the bipartisan negotiations happening on Capitol Hill will result in legislation that will have a real impact on the scourge of gun violence."

Last week the AHA, FAH and several other healthcare organizations including National Nurses United, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association all highlighted the need for government action on firearm violence.

An estimated 30,000 inpatient stays and 50,000 emergency department visits are tied to firearm injuries each year, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last year.

More than 45,000 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. during 2020, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. According to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection organization, there have been 17,213 all-cause gun violence deaths and 213 mass shootings across the country as of May 25.

Besides advocacy, Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, said that gun violence is increasingly on the mind of hospital and health system leaders concerned about the safety of those working or receiving care in their facilities.

“I quite frankly never thought I would be putting metal detectors at the front of all our hospitals but unfortunately given the situation that we’re in,” Dowling said last week. “We’ve had shootings, we’ve had staff threatened in our facilities. We’ve had staff killed near our facilities in the last month alone, so we’ve had to protect the public and put in as many protective devices as we can so someone cannot come into our hospitals armed.”

Saint Francis Health System said it will be offering support services such as counseling and pastoral care to "members of our family who need help coping with and processing the tragedies that occurred yesterday. 

The health system has also set up a donation fund with the Tulsa Community Foundation to support the families and coworkers of the victims.

Saint Francis Hospital also wasn’t the only medical facility to see gun violence Wednesday.

At Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, police said a county jail inmate receiving care in the emergency department shot a security guard with his own weapon before leaving the emergency room and fatally shooting himself in the parking lot. The guard died from the gunshot later in the day, police said.