News of a murder-suicide attack at a medical office in Austin swept through southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday morning after police identified the victim as Dr. Katherine Lindley Spaht Dodson, a pediatrician who grew up in Baton Rouge.
Dodson, 43, was held hostage inside her office for hours before her body was recovered late Tuesday, Austin police said in a press conference Wednesday morning. The suspected shooter — another doctor named Dr. Bharat Narumanchi, who did not work in that office — turned the gun on himself after killing Dodson, according to police. Austin police released their identities at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Police said detectives are working to determine the suspect's motive. They said Narumanchi was also a pediatric doctor who had recently applied for a volunteer position at the office and been turned away.
He also had terminal cancer and had been given only weeks left to live. Police believe that diagnosis played a large role in his decisions and ultimate suicide.
"Other than the previously mentioned visit to this office there did not appear to be any relation or other contact between Dr. Dodson and Dr. Narumanchi," police wrote in a news release, noting that the suspect had come armed with a pistol, a shotgun and two duffel bags.
Dodson was the daughter of Katherine Spaht, a former LSU Law professor, and Paul Spaht, a local attorney. Dodson married her husband Frederick Drew Dodson in Baton Rouge in 2006.
At a news conference, Austin police said Narumanchi entered the building armed with "numerous guns" and initially took several people hostage. Four others were able to escape unharmed before the shooting, which occurred hours later. Some of those hostages were released and others somehow evaded their attacker, but police declined to provide additional details about the circumstances.
Dodson was the only one unable to escape, police said.
Police responded to the scene around 4:30 p.m. and engaged in a long standoff with the suspect, who barricaded himself and Dodson inside the building and refused to come out.
Hours into the standoff, SWAT negotiators could be heard calling out on a bullhorn to Narumanchi, urging them to respond to calls or texts on their phone, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "Your life is very important to me," a SWAT team member said. "And I know life is very important to you."
Little is known about Narumanchi and Austin police asked people who knew him to contact the department with tips that could help them understand his actions. The Statesman reported that he practiced medicine primarily in Southern California, according to online employment records. Police were unable to say how long he had been in the Austin area.
The standoff ended after police sent a robot into the building and spotted a body.
"We are at the process of trying to figure out what Mr. Marumachi's involvement was at this particular doctor's office, why he targeted this particular doctor," said Austin police Lt. Jeff Greenwalt. "We don't know exactly why he chose to take these actions."
He said police know who did this; they want to find out why: "We want to provide … as much closure in this tragic situation as we can."
Greenwalt noted the large support network Dodson left behind. "Our hearts go out to the victims and the families and the friends," he said.
Dodson grew up in Baton Rouge where she attended Episcopal High School and obtained her undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, according to her engagement announcement. She attended medical school at LSU in New Orleans and then completed her pediatric residency training at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, according to an online bio.
She worked most recently at Children's Medical Group in Austin, where her life was taken Tuesday night.
The Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday morning that friends and patients were anguished by her loss, many speaking about her through sobs and paying tribute to their special parent-pediatrician relationship.
Interim LSU President Tom Galligan offered his condolences to the family in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"We are shocked at the tragic loss of Lindley, and our hearts go out to Katherine, Paul, Drew, and the entire family," he said. "Words fail us but we offer our good thoughts, sympathy, and prayers to our friends and colleague."