Hospital gunman ‘disliked’ at fire academy
Records show problems with female classmates, concern by instructor in ’14
The gunman in last week’s mass shooting at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center was a “disliked classmate” among his fellow Chicago fire academy trainees and was described as being “perverted” in the way he presented himself, according to an investigation into the man’s alleged mistreatment of women as he trained to be a firefighter about five years ago.
Records released Friday afternoon by City Hall show how the Fire Department’s internal affairs division investigated Juan Lopez on allegations he purposely bumped into or hit at least one female classmate during his two-month stint at the academy in 2014.
Lopez ended up being fired before the probe was concluded because he stopped showing up for work.
Authorities say Lopez killed Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez, 28; emergency room doctor Tamara O’Neal, 38; and pharmacist Dayna Less, 24, on Monday afternoon at Mercy Hospital, firing about 40 shots before dying in a shootout with a SWAT officer. Lopez, 32, opened fire at the hospital after confronting O’Neal, his exfiancee, to get his engagement ring back.
The shooting happened about 4 1⁄2 years after the Fire Department’s internal affairs division found that four of the 11 female trainees in Lopez’s academy class “had some sort of incident” with him, according to records obtained by the Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request. Other classmates of Lopez and at least one of his instructors also questioned whether he had the right temperament to work for the department.
“After several interviews with the other Candidates of the class, there seemed to be a general consensus that (Candidate Firefighter/ EMT) Lopez was a disliked classmate,” investigator Tom Floss wrote in a 19page report about allegations of violence and harassment against Lopez.
According to the report, one female trainee stated that while she didn’t witness any incidents involving Lopez, she believed “that he was perverted just by the way (he) presented himself.”
One witness also described Lopez to investigators as “lazy, arrogant and chauvinistic.” Another said Lopez acted aggressively toward the instructors. One talked about how Lopez’s behavior made her “incredibly uncomfortable.”
Within just a few weeks from the time Lopez started at the fire academy on March 17, 2014, one of his female classmates filed a complaint to supervisors about “multiple incidents” that occurred with Lopez, including that he had deliberately run into her during physical training, according to her allegations.
The woman “stated that CFF Lopez has been bumping into her on multiple occasions which has CFF Lopez viciously staring at her and with a snide response of ‘Yeah, excuse me’ that follows every hit,” the woman alleged in the report. She said that “she informed CFF Lopez to ‘not play around’ and that she did not like him hitting her.”
The woman recalled one instance in which the entire class was running on Roosevelt Road and how she was assigned as a “road guard” posted in front of a pothole. According to the report, the woman alleged that Lopez “looked right at her and stepped towards her and knocked her off balance.”
Floss, the investigator, also interviewed another female trainee who alleged that in another incident, when a group of female trainees walked through a drill hall at one of the training facilities, “Lopez was reaching his arms back and attempting to inappropriately touch every (female’s) legs with his arms or hands while they walked behind him.”
The witness also complained that Lopez appeared to make insensitive comments to at least one female trainee in reference to an earlier lawsuit filed by other female candidates.
For example, when a representative from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission spoke to the recruits on their third day of class, the witness alleged that Lopez raised his hand and asked, “What do I have to do to sue the City of Chicago and how fast can I get paid?”
Lopez, in a May 8, 2014, interview with investigators, denied all the allegations made by the trainee who filed the complaint. He told investigators he believes he “has a fine relationship with the other females of the class,” the report stated.
He did, however, acknowledge remarking about the lawsuit with what he said was a “stupid comment” aimed at a female classmate. He said he didn’t think it would offend anyone.
Lopez also had threatened to shoot up the academy around the time of his firing, officials have said. But a Fire Department spokesman could not provide details on the purported threats, which were not documented on paper.
A police vehicle sits at Mercy Hospital on Tuesday, a day after Juan Lopez killed three people there.