Indianapolis man admits firing gun near Jesse Brown VA hospital, pleads guilty to gun charge

Federal court records show Bernard Harvey Jr. has been held in custody since the shooting while attorneys have struggled to restore and maintain his mental competency.

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People stand outside the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, 820 S. Damen Ave., after a person with a weapon was arrested following reports of shots fired at the hospital Aug. 12, 2019. 

People stand outside the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, 820 S. Damen Ave., after a person with a weapon was arrested following reports of shots fired at the hospital Aug. 12, 2019.

Sun-Times file

The Indianapolis man accused of opening fire at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center while armed with an assault rifle in 2019 pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge Tuesday after two years of back and forth over his mental competency.

Bernard Harvey Jr., 43, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a Ruger PC Carbine 9mm rifle. He now faces a likely prison sentence of three to five years, according to lawyers in the case.U.S. District Judge Robert Dow set his sentencing hearing for early May.

Harvey was arrested after he fired “numerous rifle shots both inside and outside the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center,” a federal prosecutor wrote in a court filing.

“Fortunately, nobody was hit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Rubenstein wrote.

Harvey admitted during Tuesday’s hearing that he “fired the firearm several times while outside” the hospital.

Jeffrey Sallet, then the head of the FBI’s Chicago field office, said in 2019 that Harvey was arrested within 30 seconds by the hospital police.

“I don’t think people realize how lucky we were,” Sallet told the Chicago Sun-Times.

A six-page criminal complaint filed after the shooting said Chicago police began to receive 911 calls around 2:27 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2019, about a man shooting a gun near the southeast corner of the hospital at 820 S. Damen Ave. The man, wearing a white T-shirt and dark-colored pants, could be seen on surveillance footage entering the hospital’s Taylor Street entrance while holding a rifle, according to the complaint.

Hospital police found Harvey walking through a clinic area, holding the butt of a rifle in the air with the muzzle pointed to the ground, according to the complaint. It said he dropped the rifle when ordered. It also said investigators found six 9mm casings outside the hospital and one inside, as well as bullet holes in the ceiling and door around the Taylor Street entrance.

The rifle taken from Harvey had been reported stolen from a federal firearms licensee in Indiana on July 27, 2019, the complaint said. Harvey has multiple prior felony convictions.

Federal court records show Harvey has been held in custody since the shooting while attorneys have struggled to restore and maintain his mental competency. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox found in December that Harvey had “recovered to such an extent that he is able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him.”

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