Prosecutors Seek Over 5-Year Term for VA Shooter

Bernard Harvey went on a shooting spree at Chicago's Jesse Brown VA Hospital in August of 2019

Federal prosecutors are seeking a prison term between 51 and 63 months for an Indiana man who emptied a high-powered rifle at a Chicago Veterans Affairs hospital on a busy summer day three years ago.

Bernard Harvey pleaded guilty to the crime in January, after repeated journeys through the prison mental health system, where doctors worked to bring him into a competent state to face the charges.

The frightening episode took place August 12, 2019, a day prosecutors say Harvey traveled by Greyhound bus to Chicago from his Indianapolis home, toting a rifle which had been stolen from an Indiana gun dealer just two weeks before. The day prior, Harvey had allegedly been shooting the rifle at his apartment building in Indianapolis.

In an eight-page sentencing memorandum made public Monday, prosecutors said Harvey walked from the Greyhound bus station to the Jesse Brown VA Hospital at the corner of Taylor Street and Damen Avenue.

Photo of Ruger 9mm Rifle from government sentencing memorandum

"He first shot the rifle eastbound down Taylor Street," they wrote. "He then walked westbound on the south side of Taylor, continuing to fire."

After that, the memorandum described a flurry of gunfire, with Harvey firing through the hospital's glass doors and windows.

"In all, police found seven 9mm casings outside the VA Hospital and one casing just inside the vestibule," the memorandum states. "Additionally, there was one bullet hole in a steel interior door near the Taylor Street entrance and two bullet holes in the ceiling tiles."

Miraculously, no one was wounded during the incident, with Harvey eventually subdued by VA police officers after he made his way to a clinic area in the hospital's interior.

"By then, the defendant had completely emptied the 17 round magazine," prosecutors wrote.

Gun clip photo from government sentencing memorandum

In arguing for a sentence of just over five years, the government described a scenario with a "greater degree of dangerousness than any run-of-the-mill violation" under the governing laws.

"It was pure luck that nobody was shot, let alone killed, and that he faces merely a gun charge rather than murder," they stated. "This is the third time that the defendant has been convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm."

Indeed, the memorandum noted that Harvey's most recent conviction resulted in a four-year prison term.

"Those prior sentences have not impacted his apparently irresistible desire to possess (and now use) weapons," they warned. "In fact, each of his last two firearms offenses occurred after the defendant was being treated with medication for mental illness. That history and the seriousness of this violent crime, show the ongoing need to protect the public from offenses of the defendant."

The government cautioned Judge Robert Dow in the document that Harvey's history, while in and out of custody, reflected an inconsistent compliance with medications prescribed for his mental health issues. For that reason, they asked that following his release, he be required to reside in a secure in-patient mental health facility during a period of supervised release.

Federal investigators have never revealed how Harvey came to possess the weapon, a Ruger PC Carbine, which was stolen from Element Armament in New Whiteland, Indiana.

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