An argument in a hospital parking lot escalated into a shooting that killed three people, including a police officer, in the US city of Chicago on Monday.

The violence only ended when police engaged in a shootout with the gunman inside Mercy Hospital.

“We have four deceased individuals: police officer, two female staff employees at the hospital, and the offender,” police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told journalists.

The gunman killed the first victim — a woman who was in a “domestic relationship” with him — during an argument in the parking lot, then fired at police when they got to the hospital and ran inside, Johnson said.

Additional police — including SWAT officers — arrived at the scene, and “engaged the offender for several minutes in the hospital, with gunshots being fired by the offender and by the police,” he said.

During the shootout, the gunman killed a second woman when she got off an elevator, Johnson said. The shooter also fatally wounded, but it was unclear if he killed himself or was killed by police.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel identified the two female victims as a doctor and a “pharmaceutical assistant.”

In a statement Monday, Mercy Hospital named its employees killed in the shooting as emergency room physician Tamara O’Neal and pharmacy resident Dayna Less — a 25-year-old recent graduate of Purdue University.

The hospital paid tribute to police and security staff, saying it was “deeply saddened by the tragedy.”

“Every shooting in America is a tragedy, and it is especially senseless when a shooting occurs in the healing space of a hospital,” it said.

Chicago Police identified the deceased officer as Samuel Jimenez, a father of three. He joined the force in February 2017 and recently completed probationary training, becoming a full-fledged officer, Johnson said. A procession was held for him Monday night.

“Today, we mourn Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez. His heroic actions saved countless lives. He ran toward danger. He ran toward those shots. He ran into fire. Selflessly,”

“What I would ask is that you keep all the victims of today’s horrific incident in your thoughts and prayers,” Johnson said.

How the shooting unfolded

Around 3:30 p.m., the gunman approached one of the female victims — a hospital employee — in the parking lot, Johnson said. As they started arguing, a friend of the woman attempted to intervene.

The gunman lifted his shirt and revealed a handgun, prompting the friend to flee. Two 911 calls in rapid succession reported an assault and then gunshots, Johnson said.

When officers responded to the scene, the gunman opened fire on them before they could exit their vehicle. Officers followed him into the hospital and exchanged gunfire with him, Johnson said.

During the shootout, Officer Jimenez was fatally wounded along with a hospital employee as she exited an elevator.

The officers “saved a lot of lives because we just don’t know how much damage he was prepared to do,” Johnson said of the gunman.

Police secured the hospital and patients are safe, the hospital said.

The incident drew large numbers of law enforcement and emergency responders. Vehicles with flashing lights cordoned off the blocks around the busy medical center.

Witness Steven White told CNN’s Ryan Young that he was in the emergency room when he saw the shooter firing at police.

“We heard some shots so we all ran to the emergency window, we see this guy out there, military style, shooting at the police — pow, pow, pow,” he said.

When White looked outside he said he saw a person lying on the ground by the main entrance. The shooter turned around and opened fire again before running inside the main entrance.

“I don’t even have words to say how I was feeling,” White said. “It’s sad, you can’t even come to the hospital for treatment.”

At least 15 medic units were sent to Mercy Hospital, Chicago Fire Department Public Information Officer Larry Merritt said.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois thanked law enforcement members for their response.

“My heart is with Mercy Hospital in Chicago tonight. I am praying for the victims, their families, and those who were injured during the shooting this afternoon. And I am extremely grateful to the Chicago Police Department who responded with bravery,” he said on

the Patients described being alarmed by the sound of gunshots outside Mercy Hospital and seeing a man apparently walking with a woman in the parking lot before shooting her three times in the chest.

“Once she fell to the ground, he stood over her and shot her three more times,” bystander James Gray told reporters, adding that the attack played out “like a movie scene.”

TV footage showed terrified patients and staff filing out of the hospital into a parking lot with their hands in the air after officers flooded the area.

Patient Hector Avitia told the local CBS television affiliate he was with his wife waiting for test results when he saw a gunman dressed in black fire on someone on the ground several times in the parking lot.

“Then almost immediately, an officer was already coming in an SUV, and (the assailant) exchanged fire at them and then reloaded and shot the person on the ground again,” another witness said.

“And then he made his way into the hospital and more shots were fired.”

The shooting followed a series of recent high-profile gun rampages that have fueled calls for reform of firearms regulations in a country plagued by gun violence.

Less than two weeks earlier, a gunman killed 12 people in a California music bar packed with college students.

That came after the worst anti-Semitic attack in modern US history, when a gunman opened fire on congregants at a synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh on October 27.

Bypassers alerted to the latest incident spoke of hearing between six and nine gunshots that initially sounded like construction noise.

“I am scared as hell. I have never been so scared, I hear of shootings going on every day at people’s workplaces, but not where I work at,” an employee of the hospital’s family clinic told the ABC affiliate.

Mercy, founded in 1852, has locations throughout Chicago and provides outpatient treatment and acute inpatient care, boasting doctors who are leaders in their field.

Another hospital employee quoted by the Chicago Tribune said she was in her office when a notice came over a public address system telling those in the hospital to lock their doors.

“I don’t know what happened,” the unnamed employee told the Tribune.

“They told us to run, so we did.”

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