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Two hospital workers and policeman killed after row at Chicago hospital erupts into deadly shooting

Ambulances at the scene after a gunman opened fire at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on Monday. Picture by David Banks/AP
Associated Press Reporters

TWO members of staff killed in a shooting at a Chicago hospital that left four dead – also including the gunman and a police officer – have been identified.

Emergency room physician Dr Tamera O'Neal (38) was described as a fascinating, hard-working person.

Police said Ms O'Neal was confronted in the hospital parking area by the gunman, with whom she had been in a domestic relationship.

Witnesses said the man shot her and she fell to the ground. The gunman then stood over her and shot her again.

Mercy Hospital officials said 25-year-old pharmaceutical assistant Dayna Less, who was in training to become a pharmacist, was also killed.

Police superintendent Eddie Johnson said the woman was shot as she stepped out from a lift.

Also killed was 28-year-old Chicago police officer Samuel Jimenez, the father of three children.

The attacker, whose identity was not immediately released, also died on Monday but it was not clear if he took his own life or was killed by police at Mercy Hospital on the city's South Side, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

Chicago "lost a doctor, pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, fighting back tears.

"This just tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil."

The chain of events that led to the shooting began with an argument in the hospital parking area involving the gunman and Ms O'Neal, police said.

When a friend of Ms O'Neal tried to intervene, "the offender lifted up his shirt and displayed a handgun," Mr Johnson said.

The friend ran into the hospital to call for help, and the gunfire began seconds later, with the attacker killing Ms O'Neal.

After Ms O'Neal fell to the ground, the gunman "stood over her and shot her three more times," a witness named James Gray told reporters.

When officers arrived, the suspect fired at their car and then ran inside the hospital. The police gave chase.

Inside the medical centre, the gunman exchanged fire with officers and "shot a poor woman who just came off the elevator" before he was killed, Mr Johnson said, referring to Ms Less.

"We just don't know how much damage he was prepared to do," Mr Johnson said, adding that Ms Less "had nothing to do with nothing".

Jennifer Eldridge was working in a hospital pharmacy when she heard three or four shots that seemed to come from outside.

Within seconds, she barricaded the door, as called for in the building's drills. Then there were six or seven more shots that sounded much closer, just outside the door.

"I could tell he was now inside the lobby. There was screaming," she said.

The door jiggled, which Ms Eldridge believed was the gunman trying to get in. Some 15 minutes later, she estimated, a Swat team officer knocked at the door, came inside and led her away. She looked down and saw blood on the floor but no bodies.

"It may have been 15 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity," she said.

Maria Correa hid under a desk, clutching her four-month-old son, Angel, while the violence unfolded.

Ms Correa was in the waiting area of the hospital for her mother-in-law's doctor appointment when a hospital employee told them to lock themselves in offices.

She lost track of how many shots she heard while under the desk "trying to protect her son" for 10 to 15 minutes.

"They were the worst minutes of our lives," she said.

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