A 45-year-old man killed four people and himself at a medical office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday after complaining repeatedly about back pain following surgery, police said Thursday.
The suspect was identified by police as Michael Louis, whose also went by Michelet Louis, his family told The Daily Beast.
“Tulsa Police called me and verified that it’s my uncle,” Louis’ niece texted early Thursday morning. “We are so distraught.” She asked not to be named in the story, citing the “heinous” nature of the crime. “I don’t even want to be associated,” she told The Daily Beast, emphasizing that the family does not condone violence of any kind.
“We are aware that he has been experiencing back pain for a long time but [there is] no reason for this senseless act,” she said. “We are a Christian-based family. We have never experienced this before.”
Dr. Preston Phillips, an orthopedic surgeon who performed back surgery on Louis last month, was shot and killed in the attack, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said at a press conference Thursday. Louis was released from the hospital on May 24, but continued to complain that he was in pain, according to Franklin.
Louis “called several times over several days complaining of pain and wanted additional treatment,” Franklin said.
“Yesterday, June the 1st, Louis called Dr. Phillips’ office again, complaining of back pain and wanting additional assistance,” Franklin continued, adding that Louis legally purchased a semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle at 2 p.m. that same day from a local gun store.
On May 29, Louis had purchased a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun from an area pawn shop, according to Franklin.
A second orthopedist, Dr. Stephanie Husen, was killed in the shooting, which happened in the Warren Clinic Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine on the second floor of the Natalie Medical Building, near St. Francis Hospital. The other two victims were identified by authorities as Amanda Glenn, a receptionist at the medical center, and William Love, a patient.
Love and Glenn “stood in the way, and Louis gunned them down,” Franklin said, noting that Love was shot while holding a door closed so someone else could escape through another exit.
Franklin said officers first got a 911 call at 4:52 p.m. and arrived on scene four minutes later. Louis fired his last gunshot, which authorities believe was when he killed himself, at 4:58 p.m.—39 seconds after the first officers entered the Natalie Building.
Phillips was found dead in an exam room, according to Franklin, who said cops rescued an elderly woman hiding under a desk at the feet of Louis’ body.
Franklin said a note was found on Louis that “made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way. He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.”
Shortly after the shooting, Tulsa police asked Muskogee police to search a home owned by Louis and wife Edith Lubin after being told there may be a bomb inside. The home was evacuated Wednesday night, according to authorities, and neither Louis nor Lubin could be reached by reporters or worried relatives.
Franklin said on Thursday that police do not believe Lubin had any advance warning from Louis about his plan. However, Louis contacted her “either before the shooting took place, or during the shooting, and let her know what he had done,” he said. She later called police to relay the information.
When will it end! Deeply saddened to hear of tragic loss of Preston Phillips, MD who I knew during his days as a @harvardmed student. Remarkable spine surgeon and man called home to soon. We can’t continue to ignore. My thoughts and prayers to family & friends. #StopGunViolence pic.twitter.com/P93pZWLmxZ
— Edward M Barksdale, Jr MD (@emb7658) June 2, 2022
Phillips, a specialist with several decades of experience, was the section chief of the Warren Clinic. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1990 and specialized in spine disorders, joint reconstruction, and surgical procedures.
Patients praised him online as “thorough,” “gracious” and “kind,” and a local charity featured him on their Facebook page in 20118 after he donated prosthetics for knee replacements in Togo.
St. Francis’ CEO Cliff Robertson described him as the “consummate gentleman,” and said the idea that he could be targeted was “mind-blowing.”
“His clinic [would] not always be on time because he will spend every minute with patients that they need,” he said. “He is one of the doctors that was cut from the cloth of four decades ago in terms of how he felt about people and how he felt about his calling. So not only is it a shock, it is the ultimate loss for St. Francis and for Tulsa.”
Phillips’ children, and wife, Melody, declined to speak to The Daily Beast when reached by phone on Wednesday evening.
Dr. Ryan Elizabeth Parker, associate chief medical officer at St. Francis and a practicing emergency physician, had lunch with Phillips on Tuesday, she said at Thursday’s press conference.
“I know that all of my colleagues went into medicine to help people,” Parker said. “…We are supposed to be the ones that are caring for others during tragedies like this. To think that our caregivers were the victims is just incomprehensible to me. They died while serving others. They died in the line of duty.”
“I’m so sorry we couldn’t save you,” Parker said, directly addressing victim William Love, the patient who was killed, then saying to his family, “We are grieving with you.”
When initially reached by The Daily Beast Wednesday night, Louis’ family expressed disbelief that he may have been involved.
“This is really crazy. Like, this is shocking… No one in our family, like nobody in our family, has this type of behavior. No one,” the niece had said.
After receiving confirmation that her uncle was involved, she told The Daily Beast, “It’s just so shocking. Like, if he had killed himself, okay. But those innocent people, that’s what I’m hurting about.”
Last year, a Minnesota man killed one person and wounded four in a mass shooting he claimed he carried out to bring attention to the pain he had been experiencing after back surgery.