Authorities in Kankakee County were being tight-lipped Tuesday about a violent death which occurred over the weekend at the Manteno Veterans’ Home.
The Illinois State Police say on Saturday morning, a 68-year-old resident named Charles Berry from south suburban Chicago suffered fatal injuries in an altercation with a 65-year-old fellow resident. Berry was taken to Riverside Hospital in Kankakee where he lapsed into a coma, and was pronounced dead Monday morning.
The facility, which sits on a sprawling 122 acre site was formerly occupied by a state mental hospital and is now operated by the Illinois State Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is deeply saddened by the loss that occurred at the Manteno Veterans Home over the weekend," the agency said in a statement. "It is important to note this was an isolated incident between two residents -- no other residents were in jeopardy."
"Staff checked on both residents a few minutes prior to the incident,” the statement continued, “but an argument between the two residents escalated very quickly. There are protocols in place to address safety and security issues and staff responded quickly to separate the two residents and seek medical attention."
The Illinois State Police have jurisdiction over the facility, one of four such homes operated by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. While the State Police confirm they are investigating the Saturday morning incident, a spokesman said the agency was not informed that it had occurred until after 6 o'clock Saturday night.
On Tuesday, more than 24 hours after Berry’s death, officials in Kankakee County were still largely declining comment about what they described as an open investigation of what was clearly a violent incident in a facility which has long boasted that staffers outnumber the residents they are assigned to care for and protect.
"It is the policy of this office to not comment on matters while they remain under investigation," said Kankakee County State’s Attorney John Boyd. "When we have the balance of investigative materials, we will make a charging decision and issue an official statement.”
The Veterans home has operated since 1986 and has a capacity of 346 residents. Last year, an 89-year-old resident who had two Purple Hearts and a silver star to his name committed suicide at Manteno with a handgun. Veterans Affairs spokesperson Kelly Jakubek said Tuesday that person had been on a visit with family and brought the weapon with him when he returned.
"As the Manteno Veterans Home is our residents' home," she said, "they are not subject to regular security screenings when they enter and exit the facility."
The suspect in this latest case, a 65-year-fellow resident, was taken to St. Mary’s hospital in Kankakee for treatment.