A man used an assault rifle to shoot into the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, Monday afternoon.
Thankfully, no one was injured in the shooting.
Jeffrey S. Sallet, special agent in charge of the FBI Chicago Field Office, said VA police mitigated the threat within 30 seconds of the gunman entering the building.
“We avoided tragedy here in the city of Chicago today,” Sallet said at a media conference Monday night.
Police said the shots started outside and continued inside the VA hospital.
Witness told CBS Chicago the man walked up to the building and started shooting. When he stopped to reload, a car tried to run him over.
Cellphone video from inside the hospital showed just how quickly hospital police took down the shooter. He was on the ground in less than a minute.
Several veterans said their first thought when they heard the shot was how they could help and protect others.
“We’re veterans, so we’re thinking not only escape, but we’re looking at what can we do,” said witness Dwayne Weems. “So we’re looking for cubby holes; we’re looking for points where we can get a vantage point.”
“It was a heavy, heavy weapon,” said Roy Broomfield, a patient advocate at the hospital. “It could have done some serious damage.”
The FBI said the first shots were fired into the hospital entrance on Taylor Street around 2:30 p.m.
“All of a sudden, they start yelling, ‘This guy has a gun! He has a gun!’” said witness David Townsend. “I heard like some like fireworks – I thought it was a joke, like somebody shooting fireworks off.”
“I saw the guy run in there with a long, black – I don’t know what kind of shotgun it was, and he went into the pharmacy, and that scared the bejesus out of almost everybody that was sitting in the pharmacy,” said witness David Leslie. “I saw everybody hollering and running, and the security guards came in there and made them get down.”
“All of a sudden, we heard a couple shots, ‘Pow! Pow!’” Weems added. “And that people started scattering a little more. I ran through the building screaming for people to get out the building.”
Former Army medic Oliver Robinson came face to face with the shooter.
“I told him, ‘You don’t have to go through this, just put that thing down,’ and by then, the VA police were coming down the hall and they drew weapons and took him down,” Robinson said. “He didn’t fight or anything.”
The shooter’s motive remained unclear Monday night. Patients described him as rambling, saying things like: “Who hit me? Who hit me?”
“He kept saying when he got inside the VA: ‘Where’s the ER? Where’s the ER?’” Townsend said.
The hospital said the man who fired the gun is not a veteran.
Video shows VA police officers arresting the suspect, dressed in a white t-shirt and baggy pants, inside the hospital. He apparently did not fire any shots inside. A weapon was recovered, police said.