A place devoted to saving lives became America’s latest setting for grief over deadly gun violence on Thursday, the day after a man armed with a rifle and a handgun fatally shot four people before apparently taking his own life in a medical office building in Tulsa, Okla.
The man did not choose his victims at random, the police said in their early accounts of the attack, which started just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the Natalie Medical Building on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital. Witnesses described hearing a hail of gunfire.
More information on the gunman’s victims and motives is expected at a news conference Thursday morning, but Tulsa’s leaders said the attack struck at the heart of their community. “This has been the facility, more than any other, that has worked to save the lives of people in this city,” Mayor G.T. Bynum of Tulsa said on Wednesday.
As police officers arrived at the entryway of the second-floor offices where the gunman had opened fire, the shooting stopped, Capt. Richard Meulenberg of the Tulsa Police Department said in an interview Wednesday night. Officers entered and found the bodies of victims and the gunman, he said.
“This wasn’t an individual who just decided he wanted to go find a hospital full of random people,” Captain Meulenberg said. “He deliberately made a choice to come here, and his actions were deliberate.”
The police said the victims could have been a combination of employees and patients. Captain Meulenberg said that the number of people with gunshot wounds seemed to be “very low,” but that other people were injured as hundreds fled the building. None of the wounded had life-threatening injuries, the police said, and no officers were injured in the attack.
The police in Tulsa are scheduled to hold their next news conference at 10:15 a.m. Central time.
Weary Americans and observers worldwide added Wednesday’s shooting to the tally of devastating attacks in recent weeks. Just eight days earlier, 19 students and two teachers were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Eighteen days earlier, 10 people were killed at a supermarket in Buffalo.
They were just two of hundreds of mass shootings — defined as a shooting in which four or more people are killed or injured — that have been recorded in the United States in 2022.
Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish of the Tulsa Police Department said on Wednesday that active shooting protocols were “probably fresh on everyone’s minds” after criticism of the police response to last week’s shooting in Uvalde.
“I will say Tulsa revisits that topic regularly,” he said.
Gannon Gill, who runs an orthopedic urgent care clinic at the Tulsa medical facility, was wrapping up an appointment with a new patient on Wednesday when a loud noise startled him, he said in an interview. A few seconds later, he heard the noise again.
Mr. Gill, a physician assistant and a hunter, recognized the sounds as gunfire.
“There was an initial ‘What was that?’” Mr. Gill said. He turned to his patient and said: “Let’s go. I don’t think this is good.”