Convicted Felon Had Stolen Semi-Automatic Rifle in Shooting at Chicago VA Hospital: Prosecutors

Police say a man with an assault rifle fired shots inside and outside the building

A convicted felon has been charged after he allegedly walked into the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago carrying a stolen semi-automatic rifle Monday, prosecutors said. 

Bernard Harvey, Jr., 40, of Indianapolis, was charged with one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, prosecutors announced Tuesday. 

Brown is accused of walking into the medical center at 820 S. Damen Ave. while holding a rifle after police said shots were fired at the building. Law enforcement officers at the clinic area ordered him to drop the weapon, which he did, a criminal complaint states. 

The rifle had been reported stolen last month from a federal firearms licensee in Indiana, according to the complaint. 

Court records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show a series of Chicago arrests for the suspect dating back to a gun charge in May of 1996, for which he was sentenced to 150 days in jail. He also had a December 2000 drug conviction for which he was sentenced to six years in prison, and an August 2004 gun case which earned him another four years behind bars. 

More recently, Harvey appears to have had run-ins with police in Indianapolis. In March of 2009 he was arrested for disorderly conduct, and later that year on theft charges. Both cases appear to have been diverted for mental health treatment. 

Appearing before a federal magistrate at Chicago’s Dirksen Federal building Tuesday, Harvey spoke haltingly and at times seemed confused, although he nodded when asked if he understood why he was being charged. In a sworn affidavit, an FBI agent stated that the accused gunman seemed to have trouble understanding his Miranda rights when they were read to him following his arrest.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sallet said Chicago "avoided tragedy" in the incident. 

Police said Harvey shot at the building initially, and then went inside the hospital. 

The scene prompted hospital staff to shelter in place. 

“We thank and recognize the VA police officers and first responders who acted selflessly and courageously to stop an armed gunman who fired multiple rounds into the building and then entered Jesse Brown VA," SEIU Healthcare said in a statement. "We are grateful that no one was shot or suffered grievous wounds." 

Within 30 seconds of the suspect entering the building, VA police officers "mitigated the threat," Sallett said, speaking alongside with federal agents, CPD, and a SWAT team.

No injuries were reported.

CPD later confirmed they've “had contact with the suspect in the past.” 

The incident remains under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Since the hospital is a federal facility, any action taken is being looked at from a federal persepctive, officials said. 

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