Dr. Tamara O’Neal: A Tribute to the Mercy Hospital Victim

Tamara O'Neal

Dr. Tamara O'Neal.

Dr. Tamara O’Neal has been identified as one of the victims killed in a shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on November 19, 2018. She was an emergency room doctor at the hospital and had just arrived at work when she was shot multiple times by her former fiance. Chicago police officer Samuel Jimenez and another female hospital employee were also killed, along with the gunman.

CBS Chicago was the first to report O’Neal’s name, citing police sources. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson acknowledged in a news conference that she had been involved in a relationship with the gunman, but did not confirm additional details. The TV station also reported that the gunman’s name was Juan Lopez, a Chicago Housing Authority employee.

Here’s what you need to know.


1. Witnesses Reported Seeing O’Neal & Lopez Arguing in the Parking Lot; O’Neal Was Shot Multiple Times

The shooting began around 4:15 p.m. ET in the parking lot of the hospital. Multiple witnesses have shared with police and local media outlets the chaos that erupted when the gunman opened fire. O’Neal and Lopez were seen having an argument in the parking lot. Chicago police explained that a third person, a friend of O’Neal’s, tried to intervene in the conversation.

Police said Lopez reached inside his waistband, grabbed a gun and shot O’Neal multiple times. Witnesses said that after O’Neal was on the ground, Lopez shot her at least another three times. O’Neal’s friend ran inside the hospital when the shooting started to try to get help.

Police officers quickly arrived on scene. Superintendent Johnson explained that the gunman fired multiple rounds at police as they approached in their squad cars, before running into the hospital. The officers ran after him, and exchanged gunfire with Lopez. During this exchange, another female hospital worker, a pharmaceutical assistant whose name has not been released, was shot. Officer Samuel Jimenez was also shot during this exchange. Both later died from their injuries as well.

The gunman was also shot; Chicago police initially said it was unclear whether Lopez died from police gunfire or a self-inflicted wound. On Tuesday, the Cook County medical examiner’s office confirmed that Lopez had been shot in the abdomen, before shooting himself in the head.


2. O’Neal & Lopez Had Previously Planned to Get Married October 27, but the Wedding Was Called Off in September

Tamara O’Neal and Juan Lopez were planning to be married on October 27, 2018. Their wedding registry is still active on Bed Bath & Beyond’s website. According to WLS-TV, the wedding was called off in September. Witnesses said Lopez was asking O’Neal for a ring before shooting her after she said she didn’t have it.

O’Neal’s father, Tom, told CNN in a phone interview that Lopez had trouble accepting that the relationship had ended. Tom explained that he saw both Tamara and Lopez just one day before the shooting in Indiana; the two attended a church service with O’Neal’s family. Tamara held strong religious beliefs, but Lopez did not share the same commitment to faith. Tom O’Neal told CNN, “I just thank God for the 38 years we had with her. I was thinking we’d have a lot longer.”

Lopez, 32, worked for the Chicago Housing Authority and graduated from DePaul University. According to the Chicago Tribune, Lopez had a concealed carry license. In 2014, he tried to become a firefighter but was expelled from the training academy after he was accused of “shoving” female trainees.


3. Dr. Tamara O’Neal Specialized in Emergency Medicine

Tamara E O'Neal, MD

Tamara E O’Neal, MD

According to her profile on Franciscan Health, Dr. Tamara E. O’Neal specialized in emergency medicine.

O’Neal graduated from Purdue University in 2002. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She minored in pre-medicine.

Her bio on the Mercy Hospital & Medical Center website shows that Dr. O’Neal attended medical school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also completed her residency at the University of Illinois. Her page on the hospital website has since been taken down.

O’Neal was quoted in Illinois Medicine when she was accepted into the residency program. She said that she enjoyed emergency medicine because of the unpredictability. She was quoted as saying, “You never know what’s going to happen. You get to impact so many people from so many walks of life. You get to save lives. I’m so overwhelmed by so many emotions. I’m so grateful to God, my family and my EM mentors. I know the future is going to be great! By training in the UIC emergency medicine program, I know I’m going to be the best physician I can possibly be.”


4. Dr. Tamara O’Neal Was a Native of La Porte, Indiana & Dedicated a Significant Amount of Her Time to Volunteer Work

tamara o'neal

Tamara O’Neal

An online records search shows that O’Neal was 38 years old. Her birthday was May 29, 1980. In the Illinois Medicine article referenced above, she listed La Porte, Indiana as her hometown. She has multiple relatives still living there.

O’Neal appeared to spend a significant amount of time giving back to her community. According to a National Medical Fellowships program, to which O’Neal was named as a Residency Scholar in 2014, volunteered as a mentor for at-risk youth and as an after school tutor while in college at Purdue.

After completing her undergraduate education, O’Neal worked two full-time jobs, as an Intensive Case Manager and as an Attendance Officer. The profile states that O’Neal later completed the MEDPREP Post-Baccalaureate program at Southern Illinois University before going on to medical school.

While at the University of Illinois, O’Neal dedicated part of her time to teaching CPR, as part of the “Illinois Heart Rescue Project outreach programs for underserved populations.” She also served as the Education Chair and secretary of the UIC Chapter of the Student National Medical Association. O’Neal was especially interested in figuring out ways to improve community healthcare, especially in underserved areas.


5. Friends & Fellow Physicians Shared Tributes to Dr. Tamara O’Neal on Social Media

Fellow medical professionals and friends of Dr. Tamara O’Neal took to social media to write tributes to the murdered doctor.

Dr. John Purakal, an emergency room doctor at University of Chicago shared that he knew Tamara O’Neal and described trying to save her when she was rushed in for treatment. “I knew her, trained with her, saved lives with her and tonight, tried to save her life. Tonight, I broke down in front of my coworkers when we lost her, and tonight I held hands with her mother in prayer. Tonight, we lost a beautiful, resilient, passionate doc. Keep singing, TO.”

Dr. Shannon McNamara from New York wrote, “My sorrow knows no bounds. Sorrow at the unimaginable loss of life. Sorrow that this preventable death persists. Sorrow that one of our own, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, was killed on her way to work in the Emergency Department today. #ThisIsOurLane”

A colleague who knew O’Neal, Marina Del Rios, wrote on Twitter, “She was our pride and joy. #thisismyf*ckinglane.”

Dr. Esther Choo wrote, “EM docs across the country are grieving. Thank you, Dr. O’Neal, for bringing your awesomeness to this crazy job of ours. We feel the void of all you would have done for your patients, your community, our specialty.”

Dr. Maddy Mier wrote, “This one hits WAY too close to home. My heart is breaking for the families & loved ones of Dr Tamara O’Neal & the other victims.. but just like every other times, my thoughts & prayers are nowhere near enough. #ThisIsMyLane #EnoughIsEnough”

Sharareh Drury wrote, “The ER doctor killed today in Chicago… helped mentor my husband. And so many others. When he got home today, I hugged him so tight. He’d worked at Mercy, we prayed anyone he knew there was okay. And we thought so, until we just read her name moments ago. Doctor Tamara O’Neal.”

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