The Crusader Newspaper Group

Silence marks 5th anniversary of mass shooting at former Mercy Hospital

The former Mercy Hospital now operated by Insight Hospital.

It’s a story many have forgotten about. Five years ago, as the Thanksgiving holiday approached, a mass shooting rocked Chicago’s oldest hospital, the former Mercy Hospital in Bronzeville. For a city known for mass shootings that don’t often make the news, this one made global headlines after three important people were killed, including a Black doctor. But it was the death of a young Chicago police officer, one of the three victims, that initially got the attention in the news media.

Four days before Thanksgiving a man who had been dumped by his fiancée stormed the hospital with a Glock 9mm pistol after fatally shooting a doctor six times in the parking lot.

CRUSADER PIC INSERTS 2023 11 22T080627.248
Dr. Tamara O’Neal

When the mayhem ended, three people were killed, including Dr. Tamara O’Neal, a 38-year-old Black physician. O’Neal’s title and professional achievements initially weren’t given much attention as the media focused on the tragic death of Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez, a married father of three. Also killed was Dayna Less, a 25-year-old who was in her first year of residency at the hospital.

For Chicago, it was the second time that year a police officer died in the line of duty. In February of that year Commander Paul Bauer had been killed while apprehending a suspect at the Thompson Center.

When 32-year-old Juan Lopez went on a shooting rampage at Mercy Hospital, it was a mass shooting different from the many that rocked Chicago. However, newsrooms across the city positioned the shooting as “officer killed” rather than “doctor killed.” It was the officer whom the media figured was the most newsworthy subject, who was dead.

Today, the 414-room Mercy Hospital is no more, after 174 years in business. The hospital filed for bankruptcy in 2021. Under a new owner, the facility now operates as Insight Hospital. Meanwhile, the fifth anniversary of the deadly shooting that occurred in the parking lot of the facility looms with silence as lives remain forever changed.

For victims’ relatives, it was a shooting they will never forget.

On November 19, 2018, O’Neal and her fiancé, 32-year-old Juan Lopez, were arguing in the parking lot of Mercy Hospital, 2525 S. Michigan Ave. in Bronzeville. Relatives of O’Neal said she had broken off their engagement in September, one month before their wedding scheduled for October.

During the argument at Mercy Hospital, Lopez demanded O’Neal give back the engagement ring. But O’Neal told him she didn’t have it. A friend tried to cool the argument, but when Lopez pulled up his shirt to reveal a Glock 9mm pistol, the friend ran inside the hospital. Lopez then shot Dr. O’Neal three times. As she lay dying in the parking lot, he shot her three more times.

After shooting O’Neal, Lopez then ran into Mercy Hospital, where he shot Less as she was exiting the elevator. Lopez then went back outside and fired at squad cars shielding O’Neal’s body.

Lopez ran back inside where he shot Jimenez during an exchange of gunfire. Jimenez was struck just above his bulletproof vest. He died at the University of Chicago Hospital. O’Neal and Less also died.

Lopez sustained a gunshot wound in his abdomen and a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Local stations showed video of Jimenez’s body being taken by ambulance from the University of Chicago hospital to the Cook County morgue. The video also showed dozens of police officers saluting and standing at solemn attention along the side of the road.

Most media outlets initially did not report that O’Neal was a doctor and many didn’t use her title when mentioning her name in stories. There was initial concern that the media was portraying O’Neal as just another Black person who wasn’t important. Two days after her murder, the Huffington Post published the story, “Tamara O’Neal Was Almost Erased From The Story Of Her Own Murder.”

According to the Huffington Post, “the media fundamentally misrepresented the nature of the attack. The massacre was a result of her ex-partner’s final attempt to control her.”

Lopez had a history of violence. He was fired from the Chicago Fire Academy in 2014 after he was accused of inappropriate conduct with female cadets. The same year, his then-wife filed an emergency protective order against him. An ABC investigation raised questions as to why he wasn’t subjected to a deep and thorough background check when he obtained the permit in 2016 for the Glock 9mm gun, two years after those gun threats against several people.

Dr. O’Neal’s life made many proud. An emergency room doctor at Mercy Hospital, she was born in La Porte, Indiana, to Thomas “Tom” O’Neal and his wife Glendell (Beane) O’Neal. Dr. O’Neal earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Purdue University and studied pre-med at Southern Illinois University. She then attended medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. She completed her residency at the University of Illinois at the Chicago Emergency Medicine residency program before joining the medical staff at Mercy Hospital.

She wanted a career in psychiatry after picking up a human brain while studying at Purdue, according to news reports.

During a video interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Dr. O’Neal’s father said his daughter said she was driven to become a doctor after a professor at Purdue told her he didn’t think she could become one.

“Not only did she prove him wrong, but she excelled in her profession,” Thomas O’Neal said.

Dr. O’Neal lived in Hyde Park but traveled 60 miles every Sunday to La Porte to attend church where she served as choir director. She was buried at Pine Lake Cemetery in La Porte after her funeral was held at the First Church of God in her hometown.

On its website, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine says $17,818 has been raised toward a memorial scholarship fund in Dr. O’Neal’s name. The goal is $25,000.

Recent News

Scroll to Top