SALEM, Ore. — A man said to be a military veteran seeking mental health care was shot by a security officer at a Veterans Affairs clinic in southern Oregon on Thursday after an admissions area altercation in which authorities said the man became combative.
The man was flown to a hospital after the shooting in the southwestern community of White City with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, the Jackson County sheriff's office said in a statement.
Shawn Quall, an Army veteran of the first Gulf War who is from Bend, Oregon, said he heard the man shouting before the situation escalated.
"I was walking down the main hallway when I overheard a veteran yelling at intake people that he was here for the fifth time trying to get health care, and was upset at what he thought was a runaround," Quall told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Quall kept walking down the hall, but when the yelling got louder, he started running back and heard someone yell: "He's got a knife!"
"Then boom, a loud shot. I saw the guy holding his stomach and then fall to the ground," Quall said. An officer told onlookers to leave, saying there was nothing to see.
Sgt. Julie Denney of the sheriff's office said she could not confirm that a knife was involved.
"The details of the events leading to the shooting are still under investigation," she said in a text message.
VA police responded "after reports of a combative patient in the admissions area. An altercation ensued between the man and VA Police officers, resulting in the discharge of a firearm," the sheriff's office statement said. The man and the officers involved were not identified.
Veterans at the clinic receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues expressed shock about the shooting.
Outpatient Joel Setzer, a U.S. Army veteran who also served in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf, said "this is the type of incident that should have never happened out there."
The VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics says on its website that it "offers a variety of health services to meet the needs of our nation's Veterans."
Quall said it's not unusual to hear veterans arguing with the center's staff.
"Often you hear guys yelling," he said. "It's dealing with the federal government, and it is frustrating at times."
A spokeswoman for the clinic did not return telephone messages seeking comment.