Suspect ID'd, charged in Jesse Brown VA Medical Center shooting

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 40-year-old man was charged Tuesday in a shooting at the Jesse Brown VA hospital on Chicago's West Side Monday afternoon.

Bernard Harvey, Jr., of Indianapolis was charged with one count of illegal possession of a firearm, in this case a semi-automatic rifle, by a convicted felon, according to the U.S. State's Attorney's Office said. Because the rifle was reported stolen from Indiana and brought across state lines, it is a federal case.

In court Harvey had trouble remembering his age and answering questions. The issue of competency was raised in court. He was ordered to remain in federal custody and is due back in court Friday morning for a detention hearing.

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The FBI said the city "avoided tragedy" Monday when, according to police, Harvey entered the Taylor Street entrance of the medical center while holding a rifle. Law enforcement officers saw Harvey in the clinic area and ordered him to drop the gun, which they said he did. Officers then ordered Harvey to the ground and placed him under arrest.

Cell phone video shows police taking the suspect down at the entrance to the lobby.

"Act of God. That's what I make of it," said Gregory Dukes who witnessed the incident.

From the suspected shooter's first shots to his last words before VA officers took him into custody, many of the witnesses said they are still trying to make sense of what they saw.

Witness Oliver Robinson said he spoke with the shooter.

"I spoke with him," Robinson said. "He was walking through, and he was saying 'Who hit me? I'm looking for who hit me?' That's when I told him, 'Hey man, you don't have to go through this, put that down.' And at that time the VA police took him down."

"I hear all this commotion, 'run, run! He has a gun," said Leon Douglas. "He said that, 'I told him not to put his hands on me. I told him not to put their hands on me.'"

Dukes said he was standing right next to the suspect as he was taking a smoke break during an appointment at the VA hospital.

"He didn't say a word, he just came up. I thought he was going to ask me for a cigarette or something but then he just reached down in his bag and pulled out an assault rifle and shot up the hospital," Dukes recalled.

Authorities said the shooting began just after 2:15 p.m. Monday.

The FBI said the Harvey opened fire both inside and outside the hospital. Bullets hit and shattered the glass at the Taylor Street entrance and vestibule.

Moments after the first round of shots, Rickey Adams was in his vehicle as his brother left for his VA appointment when he heard a man was shooting at the hospital.

"I said, 'man.' I said, 'I'm tired of seeing people getting shot, innocent people,'" Adams said.

Adams then jumped in the driver seat and jumped into action. He said he made eye contact with the shooter as he pointed a gun at him, but the weapon jammed. That's when he tried to run him down with his car.

"When the gun jammed, you know what I'm saying and he seen me coming, I hit the pole," Adams said.

"It was an act of bravery. I just froze, there was nothing I could really do," Douglas said.

Dukes was still outside and saw Adams' heroic attempt.

"He turned around and came back around to hit the guy but he missed and ran into something," Dukes described.

Then witnesses said Harvey made his way inside the hospital where Douglas saw him after he just picked up his medication from the pharmacy.

"He had enough arsenal, it looked like a carbine with a 20-round magazine, and he shot the windows out and he could have just wasted bodies," Douglas said.

But that didn't happen thanks to VA officers who were able to apprehend Harvey without firing a single shot.

"I commend them because it could have been worse," Douglas said.

Harvey was previously convicted in Cook County on multiple felonies, including gun offenses, and he was not lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, according to the States Attorney's Office.
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