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Judge orders mental health evaluation for accused gunman in shooting last week at VA hospital in Chicago

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, Ill. (Google Maps/Released)

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a mental health evaluation for a man accused last week of firing an assault weapon multiple times outside a Veterans Affairs hospital in Chicago, causing panic among patients and staff before he was swiftly arrested inside the building without any injuries.

“I must say, based on my own observations at the initial appearance, there is reason to be concerned,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox said while granting the request from the attorney for Bernard Harvey, 40, of Indianapolis.

At his initial appearance last week, Harvey could not verbally confirm his age. He remained silent at Tuesday’s brief hearing but wasn’t asked any questions.

Harvey was charged with illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon in connection with the incident at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center on Aug. 12. Investigators found six casings outside the hospital near the Taylor Street entrance as well as two bullet holes in the building, one in the ceiling and the other in the entrance door, according to a federal complaint filed against Harvey.

Harvey will remain in federal custody as mental health professionals complete their assessments. Prosecutors did not contest the request, citing Harvey’s history with similar issues in the criminal justice system, but did not elaborate. Previously, Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Rubenstein noted that reports from the Illinois Department of Corrections show Harvey had spent time in psychiatric care.

Wearing an oversized orange jumpsuit, Harvey shuffled into the courtroom in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Tuesday with the assistance of U.S. deputy marshals, the shackles around his ankles clanging with every movement. Before the hearing, he hung his head low, looking downward, but then perked up and waved to two relatives who came into the courtroom. They declined to comment later.

Harvey was arrested by Veterans Affairs police officers less than 30 seconds after he entered the facility with the weapon, according to Jeffrey Sallet, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office.

On that day, witnesses described a chaotic scene to the Chicago Tribune, recalling that people ran screaming while trying to find shelter in bathrooms after shots rang out.

The rifle that Harvey carried during the attack was reported stolen last month in Indiana, authorities said.

He was previously sentenced to four years in prison for a 2005 felony conviction in Cook County for being a felon in possession of a handgun, records show. He also served time in prison for a felony drug conviction in 2000.


© 2019 the Chicago Tribune