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Gunman Kills 3 at Health Clinic

Violence: Witnesses say X-ray technician turned the gun on himself after shooting two medical workers and a doctor. A patient says he was 'acting weird.'

April 16, 2002|JESSICA GARRISON and ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

An X-ray technician shot a doctor and two other medical personnel to death and killed himself Monday afternoon at the clinic where they all worked in the City of Commerce, sheriff's deputies said.

Patients at the Superior Medical Clinic fled to the street as the gunfire erupted, taking refuge behind parked cars and in nearby buildings. They said at least seven shots were fired before the gunman fell dead.

The doctor, family specialist Lucia Caridad Lorenzo, 43, died of multiple gunshot wounds about two hours after the attack, said officials at County-USC Medical Center.

Two other employees, registered nurse Patricia Oglesby, 49, of Pico Rivera and Roxanne Ruiz, 25, of East Los Angeles, believed to have been a medical assistant, died at the scene.

Deputies did not identify the gunman, other than to say he was 51 years old, but witnesses described him as a usually affable man named Eddie who had worked at the clinic on Olympic Boulevard for at least six years.

Officials said they had no explanation for the 1:20 p.m. rampage.

Aurora Guerrero, 34, said the X-ray technician, who had treated her for years, had been scheduled to take pictures of her shoulder Monday. She said she, her husband and their three young children were waiting for her appointment when she saw the technician walk by.

"Eddie was acting weird," she said.

Normally gregarious, he was silent and stone-faced, Guerrero said.

She said that instead of his medical uniform, he was dressed in street clothes. And she found it odd that the trash can he was carrying to a dumpster was empty, even before he dumped it.

She said that when he returned, she called out to him: "Eddie! Don't take a break until you do me!"

Uncharacteristically, he didn't respond, Guerrero said. Instead, he pushed past her and walked down a hall to the reception desk at the front of the yellow stucco building. Seconds later, she heard gunshots.

"After the third shot, I ran," Guerrero said.

She said her husband grabbed one of the children, she grabbed the other two and they all dashed out the rear entrance.

Carlos Esparza, 23, who works at a tire repair shop across the street, said, "People were running out of the place with their kids, screaming and looking for a place to hide. Some of them got behind cars."

Guerrero and two of her children ran into a restaurant, where the three of them barricaded themselves in a small closet.

Moments later, Guerrero said, a man seeking refuge pounded on the locked door.

"Please, just take my baby," the man shouted.

Guerrero said she opened the door and squeezed the infant--and its car seat--into the closet with her and her two children.

Emeria Saldana, 39, who had an appointment at the clinic, said she arrived just as deputies' patrol cars rolled up to the door.

"I saw blood," she said. "I saw a body in the doorway."

Deputies sealed off a wide area around the clinic. People who feared that a relative might be among the shooting victims gathered outside police lines for hours, waiting for information from investigators.

The clinic has been in the working-class community southeast of Los Angeles for seven years. Located in a strip mall with a Chinese food restaurant and a Domino's Pizza, the clinic is a general family practice with a specialty in prenatal care.

Client Gina Moreno, 36, of Commerce said Lorenzo "was just the best. She never turned people away because they couldn't pay. She would say, 'Pay me however you can.'"

Friends said that Oglesby supplemented her nursing work with a job at a fast-food restaurant to support her four children.

*

Times staff writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this story.

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