CHICAGO (CBS) — A cry for help – that’s how the father of the accused VA hospital gunman described this week’s shooting incident.
On Thursday night, the devastated dad sat down with CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar – opening up about his son’s battle with mental illness.
“He’s sick. He has a problem,” Bernard Harvey Sr. said of his son, Bernard Harvey Jr. “He’s not a terrorist.”
Harvey Sr. has been in and out of his son’s life.
“I have been trying to track him down for a long, long time,” he said.
But one constant, he said, is Harvey Jr.’s battle with mental illness.
“Paranoid schizophrenia – that’s what he was diagnosed with, and he has his episodes,” Harvey Sr. said. “Sometimes he hears voices. Sometimes he rants and he raves.”
Facebook videos – hard to follow at times – shed some light into the struggles.
“He gets wild. He gets belligerent,” Harvey Sr. said. “But he doesn’t do anything. He just threatens, threatens – run off at the mouth.”
But Harvey Jr., 40, is now accused of doing something Monday.
Federal prosecutors said Harvey Jr. entered the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Monday afternoon carrying a Ruger rifle. He first fired the rifle into the hospital entrance on Taylor Street – shattering the glass – and then shots from the assault rifle continued inside, authorities said.
“He has episodes and don’t know what he’s done,” Harvey Sr. said.
No one was struck by the gunfire, but it did send veterans and doctors into a panic. Witnesses said Harvey Jr. was rambling.
Witnesses said he said things like: “Who hit me? Who hit me?”
“He kept saying when he got inside the VA: ‘Where’s the ER? Where’s he ER?’” witness David Townsend said.
Harvey dropped the rifle when police surrounded him. Prosecutors said he fired nine shots altogether in the Monday incident, which began around 2:30 p.m.
“‘Bernard Harvey Jr., age 40,’ – this was on the news, she told me,” Harvey Sr. said.
CBS 2 reported Tuesday that Harvey Jr. was a convicted felon who should not have had a gun. Charging documents say the gun used in the VA shooting was stolen July 27 from a federally licensed store in Indiana.
But Harvey Sr. said he did not believe his son wished malice upon anyone.
“His intent, in my heart – and I haven’t talked to him – but I will,” Harvey Sr. said. “He needed attention, you know? It was a cry for help.”
Harvey Jr. has done time for felony gun and drug charges. But more recently, in April, police in Indianapolis diagnosed him quickly, describing him in a police report as a “person experiencing symptoms of mental illness (who) threatened to shoot police and others.”
Harvey Jr. now sits in the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown standing charged by federal authorities, and could be in the system for up to 10 years if convicted.
“He could have killed people. There was people all around. But he didn’t do it. That wasn’t his intent,” Harvey Sr. said. “That’s my son, and I’m here for him.”
Harvey Sr. said he does not know why his son picked the VA hospital. He added that he has tried getting his son help over the years, but it has been a challenge.
Harvey Jr. will be back in U.S. District Court on Monday.