Chicago Police

‘Strongest Person I Will Ever Know': Pharmacist Killed in Mercy Hospital Shooting ‘Overcame Adversity' to Help Others

The young pharmacist had recovered from a debilitating headache disorder and "only wanted to help others"

What to Know

  • A Chicago police officer and two hospital employees died in a shooting Monday at Mercy Hospital. The suspected shooter also was killed.
  • The incident began with an altercation in the hospital parking lot, police said, where the suspect fatally shot a doctor he knew.
  • The gunman ran into the hospital. A pharmacist was shot in an elevator, and the officer was struck in the exchange of gunfire.

A 24-year-old pharmacist who was one of four people killed in a shooting at Chicago's Mercy Hospital Monday dedicated her life to helping others and was just months away from marrying her high school sweetheart.

Dr. Dayna Less' family said they want to remember her not as a victim, "but as a beautiful daughter who overcame adversity and dared to succeed in a tragic world."

The young pharmacist had recovered from a debilitating headache disorder, fighting through numerous surgeries and two years of recovery after being diagnosed at the age of 15. 

"She realized then that she could not sit still and only wanted to help others and the less fortunate," her family said in a statement. 

Less had just graduated from the Purdue Pharmacy program in May after six years of schooling and spent time in Kenya aiding a hospital. 

"This is an unimaginable tragedy," Eric Barker, dean of the College of Pharmacy said in a statement. "Today, we’ve remembered Dayna Less as a kind, compassionate, beautiful soul that had dedicated her life to helping others. It’s so tragic that a young person with her life in front of her has had her life ended in this senseless manner. The Purdue Pharmacy family along with the Purdue community grieve together alongside her family and friends in this most difficult time." 

Family said Less "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," their statement read. 

Less was engaged to her high school sweetheart, to whom she'd been dating for nearly 10 years. Their wedding was scheduled for June 1, 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," her family said. "May her memory be eternal and that we can finally learn how to stop these senseless acts."

Also killed in the shooting were a Chicago police officer and a doctor at the hospital, along with the suspected gunman who opened fire inside the building.

"It's with profound sadness that we share the death of PO Samuel Jimenez from [Monday's] senseless active shooter incident," police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted. "Please pray for his family, his fellow officers & the entire #ChicagoPolice Department."

The doctor killed was identified as Dr. Tamara O'Neal, 38, remembered by loved ones as a dedicated emergency room physician who "loved helping people" and "had a heart of gold."

"This tears at the soul of our city," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "It is the face and the consequence of evil."

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the shooting began at around 3:28 p.m. in the parking lot, then continued inside the hospital lobby.

The shooter was identified as 32-year-old Juan Lopez, according to police, who said he was in a domestic relationship with O'Neal.

O'Neal was leaving after her shift, according to the hospital, when Johnson said she and Lopez got into a verbal altercation in the parking lot.

A friend tried to intervene in the argument, Johnson said, and Lopez lifted his shirt and displayed a handgun. The friend fled into the hospital, and witnesses said they saw Lopez shoot O'Neal at least six times in the parking lot.

As police arrived at the scene, Johnson said Lopez shot at officers before they exited their cars, and then ran into the hospital, where he and police engaged in an exchange of gunfire.

During the exchange, Less was exiting an elevator when she was fatally shot, Johnson said.

Jimenez, 28, was also shot in the exchange and taken in critical condition to the University of Chicago Hospital. He later died from his wounds.

Detectives worked overnight to process the scene, with bullet holes and shell casings visible, surrounding one Chicago police SUV.

Mercy Hospital officials said it held its first active shooter drill one month prior, and praised the staff's response.

The emergency room was open Tuesday, hours after a shooting. The incident remained under investigation. 

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