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Tulsa gunman angry over pain after back surgery, police say

Two people hug after a shooting at St. Francis Hospital’s Natalie Building in Tulsa on June 1. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)
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A man who blamed his doctor for pain after back surgery last month bought guns in recent days before storming into a Tulsa medical building, killing four people and then himself, police said.

Shortly before the attack at St. Francis Hospital on Wednesday, Michael Louis, 45, bought a semiautomatic rifle and drove to the medical building, specifically looking for his doctor Preston Phillips, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin told reporters Thursday. He killed Phillips, Franklin said, as well as another doctor, Stephanie Husen, receptionist and nurse Amanda Glenn and William Love, whose family said he was accompanying his wife to an appointment.

“They stood in the way and he gunned them down,” Franklin said.

The shooting came as the nation is reeling from several recent mass shootings that have renewed calls for tightening gun laws. As the nation contends with massacres in a supermarket in Buffalo and an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., friends and family of the four in Tulsa are grieving their own loss, sharing more about their loved ones’ lives. A well-regarded orthopedic surgeon. A brilliant sports medicine doctor. A Vietnam veteran. A doting mother of sons.

Michael Louis, the suspect for the June 1 shooting at a Tulsa hospital, was a patient of slain doctor Preston Phillips. (Video: Reuters)

Authorities say Phillips operated on Louis on May 19. Louis was released less than a week later and called several times in the following days, complaining of pain and requesting treatment. On Tuesday, a day before the shooting, Phillips saw his patient. The next day, Louis called again to express his discomfort and ask for additional aid — the exact nature of which police did not disclose.

Then, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Louis bought a .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle and went to the hospital, also armed with a .40-caliber pistol he bought from a pawnshop on Sunday. Both weapons were purchased legally, Franklin said. Authorities recovered 37 bullet casings from the scene.

Police also recovered a letter the gunman had on him detailing how he was “killing Dr. Phillips and anyone who came in his way,” Franklin said.

As the hospital attack unfolded, funerals were being held in Uvalde, Tex., after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. In New York, a White man accused of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery store on May 14 was indicted on 25 counts, including domestic terrorism and murder as a hate crime, authorities said.

The latest incident came on the 101st anniversary of another horrible event in Tulsa, when a White mob pillaged a Black neighborhood, killing hundreds in one of the worst episodes of racial violence in the nation’s history. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) described Wednesday’s hospital attack as “a senseless act of violence and hatred.”

St. Francis chief executive Cliff Robertson choked up while remembering Phillips, Husen and Glenn.

“The three best people in the entire world, who are the most committed to doing what they do every day, didn’t deserve to die this way,” he said.

President Biden addressed the recent stretch of mass shootings Thursday, calling on Congress to pass “common-sense” laws to combat gun violence. Mass shootings have been on the rise in recent years, with one research group, the Gun Violence Archive, documenting 231 shootings involving at least four injuries or deaths so far this year — lower than the same period in 2021, but higher than previous years.

“If Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up either. I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote,” Biden said. “Enough, enough, enough.”

There have been over 200 mass shootings so far in 2022

In Tulsa, police said the assailant entered from the second-floor parking garage to the orthopedic clinic in St. Francis Hospital’s Natalie Building, and began firing shortly before 5 p.m. Multiple 911 calls came in starting at 4:52 p.m. Wednesday.

Officers arrived within minutes, Franklin said, and heard gunfire before it suddenly stopped. Police then found the attacker dead, apparently having killed himself moments earlier. Franklin said the last gunshot, which authorities believe was when Louis killed himself, was fired at 4:58 p.m. — 39 seconds after the first officers entered the Natalie Building.

“This is what he planned to do,” Franklin said of the gunman.

Asked whether Louis’s complaints had anything to do with opioids, Franklin said police were investigating.

Some doctors have become a target for escalating violence and tensions in recent years as the prescribing of addictive painkillers has come under regulatory scrutiny amid a drug epidemic that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead.

On Thursday, the community tried to make sense of why Louis would go on such a rampage. Muskogee Mayor Marlon Coleman said the gunman was his neighbor and had just waved to him earlier that week.

“It’s bone-chilling to know that person was in your community and not knowing what their potential to do violence was,” he told reporters.

As more details on the gunman came to light, so did harrowing moments during the attack. Cheryl Lowry, whose father was killed, said Love had gone to the hospital with his wife, Deborah, who is a patient of Phillips. Her parents were in the exam room when the shooter came down the hall, she said.

Her father held the door shut to protect his wife — but the gunman fired a round.

“The shooter couldn’t get in, so he shot through the door and hit my dad,” she said.

Lowry said the bullet hit her father in the chest and that her mother put pressure on the wound until police came to evacuate her. She said paramedics rushed her father to the hospital, where he died. Love spent nearly three decades in the military, his daughter said.

The 73-year-old was a retired first sergeant and served in Vietnam, she said. He loved to travel and spend time with his eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

“He was a really good dad and loved his grandkids,” Lowry said. “He lived for them.”

Hospital administrators noted that the shooting occurred at a place where doctors are hard at work trying to heal people. Robertson described Phillips, an orthopedic surgeon with decades of experience, as “the consummate gentleman” and someone “we should all strive to emulate.”

The 59-year-old was a 1990 graduate of Harvard Medical School, had received advanced degrees from Emory University and had completed two fellowships at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“This was their calling,” Ryan Parker, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, said. “We are supposed to be the ones that are caring for others during tragedies like this. To think that our caregivers were the victims is just incomprehensible to me.”

Husen’s ex-husband, John Reckenbeil, remembered her on Thursday as “completely genuine” and “the smartest person in the room.” When Reckenbeil met her in 1999, he said, she was a physical therapist recovering from a “hellacious” car crash — and her own rehabilitation process helped her realize she wanted to become a doctor. Soon, he said, she enrolled in medical school.

Husen, 48, specialized in sports medicine, according to St. Francis Health System.

Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland victims' families spoke to The Post about their shared grief, trauma and hope for action following the Texas school shooting. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Joy Yi, Leila Barghouty/The Washington Post, Photo: Eric Gay/AP/The Washington Post)

Amanda Glenn, a 40-year-old nurse and mother of two, was beloved by her husband, Jonathan Glenn, and two sons, Gabe Glenn and Ian Glenn, and the close-knit community of Sand Springs, friends said.

Sue Ford Phelps, whose daughter grew up and went to school with Glenn, said she would come to their house nearly daily before they graduated from Charles Page High School, the same school Glenn continued to support as a mother.

“She was the sweetest person I knew,” Phelps said. “She will be missed by so many.”

Bryan Pietsch, Andrew Jeong, Clarence Williams, Tyler Pager, John Wagner and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.