Indianapolis man gets more than 4 years for shooting at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center

Bernard Harvey Jr. had a history of mental illness and suffered from schizophrenia at the time of the shooting, according to filings from his defense attorney.

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Jesse Brown VA Medical Center at 820 S. Damen Ave.

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced an Indianapolis man to more than four years in prison for opening fire at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in 2019 in what prosecutors said could have been “an unthinkable tragedy.”

Bernard Harvey Jr. had a history of mental illness and suffered from schizophrenia at the time of the shooting, according to filings from his defense attorney, Gareth Morris. Harvey pleaded guilty in January to illegal possession of a Ruger PC Carbine 9 mm rifle after years of back and forth over his mental competency.

Video of Harvey’s interrogation after the shooting revealed “an incoherent, deeply disturbed and disoriented man,” Morris wrote in a memo to the judge. “The agents gave up trying to interrogate him when he was unable to understand or respond to his Miranda warning.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow gave Harvey 51 months in prison with credit for time served of about 34 months, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The gun prosecutors say Bernard Harvey Jr. used in the shooting at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

The gun prosecutors say Bernard Harvey Jr. used in the shooting at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

U.S. District Court records

A six-page criminal complaint filed after the shooting said Chicago police began to receive 911 calls at 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 9 mm casings outside the hospital and one inside, as well as bullet holes in the ceiling and door around the Taylor Street entrance.

Prosecutors said it was “pure luck that nobody was shot, let alone killed.”

The rifle taken from Harvey had been reported stolen from a federal firearms licensee in Indiana on July 27, 2019, the complaint said. Prosecutors alleged that the day before the shooting at the hospital, Harvey “apparently had been shooting the rifle at his apartment building in Indianapolis where police received a call of shots fired.”

They said authorities found three spent 9mm rifle casings on the floor of Harvey’s bedroom, and a box of live 9mm ammunition. The feds say he boarded a Greyhound bus for Chicago early on Aug. 12, 2019, walked to the hospital and opened fire.

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