Families remember Purdue grads killed in Chicago hospital shooting

CHICAGO, Ill. – Family members are mourning the death of Dr. Tamara O’Neal and Dr. Dayna Less, both Purdue graduates who worked at Mercy Hospital in Chicago.

O'Neal, 38, was previously engaged to the shooter. Less had just stepped off the elevator at the Chicago hospital when she was gunned down and killed.

O'Neal received her undergraduate degree from Purdue's College of Psychology in 2002. Family of O'Neal said most of them live in La Porte, Indiana but O'Neal moved to Chicago and started her residency in 2016. She was an emergency room doctor at Mercy Hospital.

Her cousin, Turrell O'Neal, said he was shocked to hear her ex-fiancé shot and killed her.

"You never know what goes on behind closed doors," he said. "You only know from what you see and what we saw were two people who loved each other. The engagement was broken off but they had intentions of working through it."

Turrell said their faith is going to get them through this difficult time right before the holidays. He described O'Neal as someone who loved family and dancing. His favorite memory of her is from a recent trip to Chicago to celebrate her birthday.

"Tammy was one of the most joyful, bubbly people you would have ever wanted to meet. You never really saw her sad or mad. She was always in good spirits," said Turrell.

He is heartbroken her life was cut short and he's angry she will not be able to live out her full purpose as a doctor.

Photo of Dayna Less and her fiance courtesy of Nina Starcevich via Twitter

Less, a 25-year-old pharmacy resident, had a lot to look forward to in the coming year. She just graduated from Purdue in May, and she was engaged to be married to the love of her life on June 1, 2019. Her father, Brian Less, said she started dating her fiancé at 15-years-old.

"There’s absolutely no reason for this, but I want her remembered for what good she brought into this world – the light that she brought, and not, I don’t want her remembered as a victim," said Brian.

Brian said his daughter was intelligent, funny and kind. She was planning to sign on to do a second year residency at Mercy Hospital.

Her family also issued this statement:

"Dayna suffered a headache disorder when she was 15.  Not migraines but worse.  And through a series of surgeries and almost 2 years of recovery was able to regain her life. She realized then that she could not sit still and only wanted to help others and the less fortunate. She graduated Lake Central High School and went to the Purdue Pharmacy program where she graduated this past May after 6 years. She spent time in Kenya helping at a hospital. She started a blog, www.mydaughtersheadache.com, and helped hundreds of children with a similar affliction find hope and help. She loved helping others. She was good at her job because it helped others. She was forged in her own adversity which made her the strongest person I will ever know. After dating Adam for almost 10 years, her high-school sweetheart, they were to be married on June 1st of 2019. We thank everyone for their prayers. We pray for the other families touched by this tragedy and the many, many others in recent months. May her memory be eternal and that we can finally learn how to stop these senseless acts."

The Purdue Boilermaker community is also grieving with the family. Eric Barker, dean of Purdue's College of Pharmacy, said they are remembering Less as a very compassionate and beautiful soul.

"Most faculty remember her as someone who was very compassionate and cared very deeply for her patients so it makes these sorts of tragedies even more tragic when someone so young had dedicated their life to helping others," said Barker.

Purdue President Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. also sent this statement.

"We are proud of Tamara and Dayna for the lives of service they chose to pursue. We are deeply grateful and admiring of officer Jimenez for his sacrificial bravery that spared other innocent lives."

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