Suicide Alert: Pediatrician Katherine Lindley Dodson, MD, was killed in an hours-long hostage situation Tuesday in her medical office in central Austin, Texas, Austin police said in a press conference today.
Jeff Greenwalt, a lieutenant with the Austin Police Department, said the suspect, Bharat Narumanchi, MD, 43, also a pediatrician, died by suicide at the office at 1912 West 35th Street.
Greenwalt said the motive was unclear, but said about the suspect, “We do know that approximately a week or two earlier he did (come) to the office and apply for a volunteer position.”
Greenwalt said the suspect, who did not work at the clinic, was told no and police did not know whether that was the reason he came back.
“We also know that the suspect, Dr. Narumanchi, had terminal cancer and was only given weeks to live,” Greenwalt said.
Greenwalt said that about 4:30 PM police received notice that an armed man had entered the medical office and taken five people hostage.
Four hostages were released or were able to escape and told police what was happening inside, Greenwalt said.
They reported that the gunman, who entered with two guns and two duffel bags, told the hostages to tie themselves up. No patients or children were in the office at the time.
Officers were eventually able to get a robot with a camera inside. By that time, both doctors were dead, Greenwalt said.
A City of Austin police report stated that when SWAT officers went inside they found the 43-year-old Dodson and Narumanchi dead “from apparent gunshot wounds…. It appeared that Dr. Narumanchi shot himself after shooting Dr. Dodson.”
News outlet KXAN reported that neighbors saw doctors in scrubs running from the pediatric doctor’s office in central Austin.
“They were pretty traumatized,” said Shelley Todd, who lives less than a block from the scene. “A couple of them needed masks, so I ran out and grabbed some of the plain masks for them. They were all scared.”
Colleague Lauren Gambill, MD, tweeted, “[H]e killed an incredible woman, mother, and pediatrician. We are absolutely heartbroken. Hold your loved ones close.”
Karen Vladeck, cohost of the In Loco Parent(i)s podcast, tweeted, “Our entire community is beyond words gutted by the senseless loss of our wonderful pediatrician and friend, Dr. Lindley Dodson. This thread is dedicated to her life and love of children and I invite anyone who knew her to share a memory here, if that helps you process your grief.”
She continued, “My heart is shattered for her 3 children, her husband, her family, her countless friends, the Children’s Medical Group doctors and staff, her patients, the Austin community, and everyone that knew and loved her. I just can’t believe she is gone. May her memory be a blessing.”
A father of one of Dodson’s young patients tweeted, “Every time my wife or I would leave an appt we’d talk about how badly we wanted to be her friend! We’re just so sad, our thoughts go out to all of her friends and family. It’s no surprise she was loved by so many people.”
KXAN reported hearing a hostage negotiator say at some point in the negotiations, “You can come out of the front door with your hands up and empty and follow the instructions of the officer. I know you’ve been dealt a very terrible card, but you’ve spent your entire life dedicated to other people.”
Lieutenant Greenwalt said, “The case, as far as who did this, is closed. And we know that there’s no longer a threat to the public,” though he encouraged anyone with information to call the department’s tip line or Crime Stoppers. “But we really, really want to answer the question of why.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include Austin police confirmation that both doctors died from apparent gunshot wounds.
Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.