Why gunman was in Austin and how his terminal diagnosis may have played a role in deadly hostage situation

Crime

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police are investigating whether a man’s terminal diagnosis may have motivated him to carry out a hostage situation that ended with a doctor’s death Tuesday.

Police said Dr. Bharat Narumanchi, 43, shot and killed Dr. Katherine Lindley Dodson before he turned the gun on himself. The murder-suicide happened after police said Narumanchi went into Dodson’s office with several guns Tuesday afternoon and held four other employees hostage before they either escaped or were released.

Lt. Jeff Greenwalt with the Austin Police Department’s homicide and aggravated assault unit told reporters Wednesday that Narumanchi, 43, recently learned he had terminal cancer with only weeks to live.

“We feel like his terminal cancer probably played a large part in whatever it was that occurred in his life and what was happening yesterday,” Greenwalt said.

To examine that claim more closely, Greenwalt said those who knew Narumanchi best may play a significant role. He said Narumanchi’s family members agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

“We’ve asked for them to share with us anything they might learn over the next few days and weeks in terms of providing any type of closure. They promised to do that for us,” Greenwalt said. “They have expressed interest in wanting to reach out to the victim’s family, too. This is a shock to them, as it is to the rest of us.”

He said Narumanchi’s family members told police they began looking into hospice care recently since his diagnosis was so grim. Police are not able to share at this time what kind of cancer he had.

Detectives are hoping that either friends or family members of Narumanchi’s can recall any suspicious behavior that may provide more insight into his motivation for doing this.

“A lot of times, suspicious behavior is not so suspicious when it’s happening, because you’re just not thinking about that,” Greenwalt said. “But when you look backwards and think with 20/20 hindsight, now knowing what happened, little things that weren’t suspicious at the time mean more, and that’s why we’re asking for family and friends to really think about what they’ve known, what people have said and bring that to our attention so that we can put all of the pieces together.”

Police shared Narumanchi visited Children’s Medical Group, where Dodson practiced, a week or two before the deadly hostage situation happened to ask about a volunteer position at the practice.

Police said Narumanchi previously worked as a pediatrician. Online records show he went to medical school at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, where he graduated from in 2008. Following graduation, Narumanchi worked for a year and a half at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in New York City. He was terminated in December 2009, but filed a grievance over his termination. Both sides initially agreed to arbitration, but Narumanchi later rejected a proposed settlement, according to federal court records.

St. Vincent’s filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, and Narumanchi submitted a claim for $24,700 to the bankruptcy court but later revised the claim to $1,524, according to federal court records.

He did a pediatric residency at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and worked in California and Florida. He was issued a California medical license in 2012. That “physician and surgeon A” license would be valid until August 2022. The address of record on his California license comes back to a Los Angeles area medical group, according to the California Medical Board.

Hawaii court records show Narumanchi filed for divorce from his ex-wife in 2012, and the two had joint custody of a daughter. Those divorce records connect Narumanchi to a north Austin home, where individuals with the same last name live. He is not listed as one of the owners.

He was turned down for the volunteer role at Children’s Medical Group, according to police.

“We don’t know if that’s the reason he decided to come back or if there’s some other involvement that he may have had,” Greenwalt said Wednesday.

Police said they do not know of any other contact that Narumanchi may have had with Dodson.

Greenwalt told reporters what happened Tuesday during the hostage situation is unlike anything he’s experienced in his 20-year career with Austin police.

“This is a pretty unusual thing for Austin,” he said. “We can’t really remember one. This is extremely unusual for this to happen.”

Police are now asking anyone with information that can assist with the ongoing murder-suicide investigation to contact the department in any of the following ways:

  • Call the general tip line at 512-974-TIPS.
  • Send an email to homicide.apd@austintexas.gov.
  • Contact the Crime Stoppers tip line at 512-472-8477.

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