Last month, Michael Louis had an operation on his back. But the pain had become too much to bear, he claimed. And when an enraged Louis couldn’t find relief, he blamed the man trying to help—his doctor.
Police said Louis fatally shot two orthopedists, a medical receptionist, a bystander, and then himself at a medical office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday afternoon, using a semi-automatic rifle he bought just three hours earlier from a local gun store.
Louis, a 45-year-old resident of Muskogee, had roots in New Jersey and also went by Michelet Louis, his family told The Daily Beast.
“We are so distraught,” Louis’ niece texted early Thursday morning. 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 Louis’ back surgery, was killed, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said at a press conference Thursday. Louis had been released from the hospital on May 24 but continued to complain that he was in pain, according to Franklin.
He called to complain “several times over several days,” Franklin said, including on Wednesday, the day of the shooting, when he called Dr. Phillips’ office again, “complaining of back pain and wanting additional assistance.”
At 2 p.m. that same day, Louis purchased the AR-15-style rifle from a local gun store. He took it to the hospital along with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun he’d bought on May 29 from an area pawn shop, Franklin said.
Franklin said officers first got a 911 call at 4:52 p.m. from a patient who was having a video visit with their doctor, who told them to contact police about a shooting in the Natalie Medical Building, near St. Francis Hospital. Police arrived on the scene four minutes later. At 4:58 p.m., just 39 seconds after they entered the Natalie Building, they heard one last gunshot, which they believe was Louis killing himself.
Phillips was found dead in an exam room in the Warren Clinic Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine on the second floor, according to Franklin. He said cops rescued an elderly woman hiding under a desk at the feet of Louis’ body.
A second orthopedist, Dr. Stephanie Husen, was killed in the shooting. The other two victims were identified by authorities as Amanda Glenn, a receptionist, and William Love, who had accompanied a patient to an appointment there.
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 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 his wife, Edith Lubin, after being told there may be a bomb inside. The home was evacuated Wednesday night, according to authorities.
While police don’t believe Lubin had any advance warning from Louis about his plan, Franklin said Louis contacted her “either before the shooting took place, or during the shooting, and let her know what he had done.” She later called police to relay the information.
Phillips was the section chief of the Warren Clinic and specialized in spine disorders, joint reconstruction, and surgical procedures. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1990, completed his residency at Yale New Haven Hospital, and was a jazz aficionado, The Oklahoman reported. He also sat on the board of directors of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, which seeks to “transform society’s divisions into social harmony” in memory of 1921’s brutal Tulsa Race Massacre.
Patients praised Phillips online as “thorough,” “gracious,” and “kind,” and St. Francis CEO Cliff Robertson called him the “consummate gentleman.”
“His clinic [would] not always be on time because he will spend every minute with patients that they need,” Robertson 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.
Love was an Army veteran, and just recently bought an RV with his wife, according to local reports.
In an emotional Facebook post, Glenn’s brother, Jim Massengill, remembered his sister as “one of the most kind and caring individuals to ever live.”
“I haven’t really came up with the words yet… I honestly have no idea what to say because I’ve been hysterically crying since I found out,” he wrote, adding that he remained “in complete shock.”
Husen, a dog lover, specialized in sports and internal medicine. A patient remembered her on Facebook as “an incredibly warm, smart, and caring woman... I just don’t know how to feel or what to say. But I just wanted to testify that Dr. Husen was a fine woman and she will be missed.”
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,” his 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, OK. But those innocent people, that’s what I’m hurting about.”
Dr. Ryan Elizabeth Parker, associate chief medical officer at St. Francis and a practicing emergency physician, said at Thursday’s press conference that she’d had lunch with Phillips on Tuesday
“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 added, directly addressing Love, then saying to his family, “We are grieving with you.”
In a statement issued Thursday, the St. Francis Health System said it would be offering counseling, pet therapy, and other services to “members of our family who need help coping with and processing the tragedies that occurred yesterday.”
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.