Dr. Dayna Less had everything to live for. She was a first-year pharmacy resident at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, who was engaged to be married. She was only 25-years-old. In college, she was involved in charity work, helping at a suicide and sexual assault crisis hotline.
However, a gunman – labeled “evil” by Chicago’s mayor – shot and killed an emergency room doctor, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, and then barged into the hospital, opening fire and also killing Dayna Less. By the time it was over, Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez also lay among the dead. The gunman, who had a previous relationship with O’Neal, died too, although it’s not clear whether he took a Chicago police bullet or perished from a self-inflicted wound. (See photos of each of the Mercy Hospital victims here.)
“The family of Dayna wants to let everyone know that she should not be remembered as a victim, but as a beautiful daughter who overcame adversity and dared to succeed in a tragic world,” a statement released to WGN-TV said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dayna Less Was Planning a Spring Wedding & Had a ‘Great Short Life With a Greater Future’
According to the website The Knot, Dayna Less was engaged to be married on June 1, 2019 in Indiana. “192 days to go!” the website tragically proclaimed on the date of her death.
Her Facebook profile declares that she was in a relationship, and her profile picture shows Less with her fiancee. He filled his own Facebook page with photos of them as a couple; they graduated from the same university. “We like to wear our matching NASA shirts to parties sometimes,” Less wrote in the caption with one photo of her and her fiancee.
The relationship went back years, and they were high school sweethearts. There’s still a prom picture of the couple on Facebook from 2012.
Dennis Barunica wrote a tribute post to Less on Facebook indicating she had learned Serbian instruments and they played until “our fingers were sore.” She “had a great short life with a greater future,” he wrote.
“This is the hardest post I’ve ever had to make. You heard about the hospital shooting in Chicago. The pharmacy assistant killed stepping out of an elevator was one of us,” he wrote. “Dayna Less was in the first Serbian group I taught. She learned brac and cello, so that tells you how talented and into it she was. We would go over her house with whoever could make it and just play until our fingers were sore, then her mom, Teena, would make us all the palacinke we could eat and send me home with some. She was one who made teaching easy and fun. Only 25 and gone. She had a great short life with a greater future…My heavy heart goes out to her family, fiance, and church community. I don’t have kids, but you know you all are a little bit my kids. My first experience with someone I knew and liked and taught being a victim of gun violence is too saddening to fully describe or grasp. So hug your kid, say a prayer, send good vibes in her name. Rest in Peace, Dayna.”
2. Less, Who Was Shot Getting Off an Elevator, Overcame a Serious Headache Disorder as a Teen
In an emotional statement, Dr. Dayna Less’s father, Brian Less, described how she had overcome medical challenges in her teenage years.
“Dayna suffered a headache disorder when she was 15. Not migraines but worse. And through a series of surgeries and almost 2 years of recovery was able to regain her life,” he said in the statement released to WGN-TV.
“She realized then that she could not sit still and only wanted to help others and the less fortunate. She graduated Lake Central High School and went to the Purdue Pharmacy program where she graduated this past May after 6 years. She spent time in Kenya helping at a hospital. She started a blog, http://www.mydaughtersheadache.com, and helped hundreds of children with a similar affliction find hope and help. She loved helping others. She was good at her job because it helped others. She was forged in her own adversity which made her the strongest person I will ever know. After dating Adam for almost 10 years, her high-school sweetheart, they were to be married on June 1st of 2019. We thank everyone for their prayers. We pray for the other families touched by this tragedy and the many, many others in recent months. May her memory be eternal and that we can finally learn how to stop these senseless acts.”
The blog has an old post called “Dayna’s Story,” and reads, “Dayna is a very strong and determined person. She finished out her Junior year with a 4.2 average in spite of the nasty headaches. She is completing her college applications for fall of 2012. She has told me she does not regret what she has been through. Dayna has learned much about herself, family and her friends. She has decided to pursue a degree in Pharmacy.”
Dayna Less was new to the hospital. According to The Chicago Tribune, she had only been working there since July.
Chicago’s Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson described how Less was shot literally doing nothing – she had just stepped off an elevator.
“That poor woman who got off an elevator. Who had nothing to do with anything, and he shot her,” said the police superintendent. “She was shot by the offender. That’s who shot her.” He said the responding officers likely saved many lives, and that the suspect had one gun during the carnage. “Please say a prayer for that police officer and his family and for those other victims who were gunned down needlessly,” he said.
3. Less Studied Pharmacy at Purdue University & Was Adventurous in Spirit
According to her Facebook page, Dayna Less studied pharmacy at Purdue University, graduating in 2018. She lived in Chicago, Illinois. Less was involved in charity work in college, writing in 2015 of a local blood drive, “YOU can save THREE lives with your donation!” A friend wrote on Twitter, “Chicago and Purdue are my second homes. Dayna Less was one of my volunteers at the suicide & rape crisis hotline I worked at in Lafayette. My heart goes out to her loved ones.”
The mayor of Chicago said in a news conference, “The City of Chicago lost a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant, and a police officer. All going about their day; all doing what they love.” This, he said, “tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and the consequence of evil.” (Some on Twitter have questioned the mayor’s choice of words, with one man writing, “One of the Mercy Hospital shooting victims was Dr. Dayna Less, a PGY-1 pharmacy resident only months into her post-graduate training (not a ‘pharmaceutical assistant,’ Mayor Rahm Emanuel).”)
In 2014, Less posted the above photo showing her skydiving to Facebook. She wrote, “My first time skydiving, but definitely not my last! — in Kauai, Hawaii.”
A friend wrote on Twitter, “The pharmacist, Dayna Less, killed in today’s senseless shooting at Mercy Hospital is part of my family’s Kumovi and Church congregation. My thoughts are with my family, my Kumovi and my city. Tough night on many levels. Be good to each other.” (A kumovi is Serbian for a godfamily.)
4. Friends Wrote About Dayna Less’s Love of Traveling & the Chicago Cubs
Dana Less appeared to enjoy traveling from her social media posts. “Dayna, I have enjoyed reading your stories about your trip to Kenya! It looks and sounds like a beautiful country and I am thrilled that you had the opportunity to immerse yourself in the country and culture, and also make such a difference in the lives of your patients. What an experience!” one woman wrote on a post from May 2018. In it, Less had shared the above photo.
Another friend wrote on Twitter, “I was a close friend of Dayna Less. One of her and her family’s favorite things together was celebrating their love for the Cubbies. ♥️ Please pray for her Mother, Father, and Fiancé during this horrific time.”
The Chicago Cubs joined others in offering tribute to the victims, writing, “We are heartbroken for the families of CPD officer Samuel Jimenez, Dr. Tamara O’Neal and Dayna Less, victims of today’s senseless shooting at Mercy Hospital. Our thoughts are with their loved ones and friends.”
5. The Other Victims Were Identified as a Doctor & a Police Officer
Dr. Tamara O’Neal was identified as the first victim in the Mercy Hospital shooting in Chicago, Illinois on November 19, 2018. The Franciscan Health website lists Dr. O’Neal’s specialty as “emergency medicine” and her provider type as “independent.” According to The Chicago Tribune, O’Neal was described as “dedicated to her church and patients,” and involved in helping underprivileged children and the church choir.
Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez, who died responding to the rampage at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, was lauded by the mayor and police superintendent as a hero who ran toward danger to protect others, likely saving lives.
The officer “had just recently come off of probation,” said Superintendent Eddie Johnson. “I would ask that you keep all of the victims” in “your thoughts and prayers,” said Johnson. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news conference that, in the span of a few hours, he had seen the emotional highs and lows of the Chicago “police department family.”
Johnson said that O’Neal had once been in a relationship with the gunman, who was identified as Juan Lopez. Lopez was described as O’Neal’s “ex-fiance.”
“This has been a very difficult day, not just for the Chicago Police Department, but for the City of Chicago,” said Johnson during the news conference. On Monday afternoon, a “verbal altercation” occurred in the parking lot “between individuals that knew each other,” he said, referring to O’Neal and Lopez. A third person, a friend, attempted to intervene “in the verbal dispute.” At that time, said Johnson, the man – later named as Lopez – lifted up his shirt to show a handgun and fled into the hospital.
The police superintendent said that the gunman shot and killed O’Neal, with whom he “was in a domestic relationship with.” He then fired multiple shots at officers who arrived before they could exit their squad car. He ran into the hospital, and the officers gave chase.
Officer Jimenez had recently completed his probationary period and was married with three children.