US

‘We Avoided Tragedy’: Man Arrested After Firing Assault Rifle in Chicago Hospital

By GQ Pan

A man armed with an assault rifle was subdued within 30 seconds after he opened fire both inside and outside a Veteran Affair hospital Monday afternoon, according to Chicago police.

The male suspect arrived at the Taylor Street entrance of the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center at around 2:18 p.m. and began firing his rifle outside the building, said Jeffrey Sallet, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago field office, in a press conference hours following the incident.

Sallet said the suspect, whose identity has not been released, entered the building’s lobby and fired more shots. Police officers heard the gunfire and rushed to apprehend the gunman. They managed to do so without firing a shot.

“Within 30 seconds of that firing, the VA police responded and mitigated the threat,” said Sallet, adding that not a single person was hit or injured in the potentially deadly incident. “We avoided tragedy here in the city of Chicago today.”

Sallet praised the men and women of the VA hospital police, saying that when shots were fired, and the call came, these officers “ran into the shots, resulting in quick mitigation of the threat.”

The authorities did not disclose the suspect’s motive or say how many shots were fired.

A witness named Oliver Robinson told the Chicago Tribune that he briefly spoke with the gun-wielding suspect inside the hospital.

“I walked toward the pharmacy area, and a gentleman came walking past me with that big gun,” Robinson told the news outlet. “He was like as close as you are to me. I said, ‘Hey man, you don’t have to go through that, put that down.’ And at that time the VA police came around.”

Another witness, 71-year-old Darryl Jones, said he was inside the facility’s cafeteria when he saw the gunman approach.

“I thought, this guy is coming to try and do some damage,” said Jones, adding that people were running and screaming as they saw that the man was armed with a rifle. “I was nervous,” he said.

The suspect is still being questioned, and authorities have not released any information regarding the charges. Criminal charges against him would undoubtedly be brought at the federal level, as the Department of Veterans Affairs operates the facility.

Monday’s shooting that miraculously left no victims came about nine months after the carnage at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in South Chicago. On Nov. 19, 2018, 32-year-old Juan Lopez shot and killed a woman in the hospital’s parking lot. Then he ran into the facility randomly opening fire inside. He murdered a CPD officer who rushed to the scene and a hospital worker just getting off an elevator. Lopez tried to take his own life by shooting himself but was killed by a police bullet.

The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, according to a post on its official Facebook page, returned to normal operations on Tuesday but with increased security.

The VA hospital said the suspect was “not believed to be a veteran.”

Located on Chicago’s West Side, the 220-bed VA facility provides care to about 62,000 military veterans in five counties. It has about 2,000 full-time equivalent staff, including more than 200 physicians and 450 nurses.