TULSA, Oklahoma—A man carrying a semiautomatic rifle and a pistol opened fire in a medical building here, killing four people before taking his own life, police said.
And no sooner had police cleared that scene than authorities in Muskogee were alerted that the shooter might have planted a bomb at his own home there.
The latest explosion of violence to rock the country unfolded just before 5 p.m. local time on the second floor of the Natalie Medical Building near St. Francis Hospital.
Within minutes, cops were on the scene and ran inside.
“The officers that did arrive were hearing shots in the building,” Tulsa Police Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish said at a briefing.
No officers were injured. Police did not release any information about the victims and said they had not identified the shooter, who was described only as a Black man between ages 35 to 40.
Dalgleish said police did not have a motive yet.
Taryn Starkey, a birth doula who was in the Natalie building, said Labor & Delivery staff “barricaded the entrances to the floor with chairs and sofas to keep laboring and postpartum families safe.”
Debra Proctor, a nurse, said she was in the building next door and left her appointment to find police, firefighters, and paramedics swarming the area as far as she could see.
“I knew it was an active shooter but I didn’t know the extent. It’s very sad. We just keep having them, every day, every year, until we decide that we’ve had enough,” she told The Daily Beast. “In my mind, it’s like a massive car collision. Then I thought maybe it’s a fire. But then you realize the active shooter is right next door.”
Endocrinologist David W. Harris, who works at the nearby Springer Clinic, went to the reunification center at Memorial High School to check on colleagues who work in the Natalie building.
“No other country has this problem,” he told The Daily Beast. “There is no safe place in our country anymore.”
The shooting comes a week after the horror at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunned down 19 children and two teachers before being killed by authorities.
The Uvalde tragedy came on the heels of a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where another teenager—who allegedly harbored white supremacist views—targeted black shoppers at a supermarket, killing 10.
Tulsa Police held active shooting training for its officers just this week, and officials stressed that cops rushed into the Natalie building—drawing a contrast with the situation in Uvalde, where police stayed outside for an hour after the first shots were reported.
Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg told The New York Times that cops headed to the second floor after hearing gunfire but that it had ceased when they got there. They discovered the shooter dead, apparently by his own hand, and then the victims.
Fifty miles away in Muskogee, Justin Van Cleave, 38, lives across the street from the address that was the scene of the bomb scare Wednesday night. He told The Daily Beast he has lived there since November and that he’s exchanged pleasantries with a middle-aged woman.
“It’s very quiet,” he said of the neighborhood, adding that officials had told him to stay inside while they checked the neighboring house until about 10 p.m.
The mayor of Muskogee lives in the neighborhood, just down the street from the house that was searched, he noted. “Even the cars are quiet,” he added.
The Oklahoman reported that a bomb squad using dogs from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol found nothing at the home.
“No devices were found,” Muskogee Police public information officer Lynn Hamlin told the paper, adding that Tulsa police then “took over the scene.”
Saint Francis Health System said in a statement late Wednesday that it is “grieving the loss of four members of our family” but said it would not name the victims.
“I also want to express our community’s profound gratitude for the broad range of first responders who did not hesitate today to respond to this act of violence,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said.
Proctor, the nurse who was in the building next to the Natalie Medical Building, said that in her line of work, “I’ve seen my share of gunshot wounds, so I understand the dark side of humanity, but I feel bad for those whose families who have lost someone again.
“Because we continue to turn away from any simple action that we could take. People will have lifelong suffering and sorrow—who is going to take responsibility for the blood on their hands? The only solution is to vote out the people who don’t give a damn.
“And they keep turning away from the most simplest responses to gun safety. So that means we condone that gun violence, because we keep coming up with bullshit excuses, like mental illness. But every country has mental illness. Only we have the mass shootings.”