A gun-wielding double amputee believed to be an Army veteran fired at least six shots in a Florida VA emergency room Wednesday night and set off a violent struggle with two doctors, who eventually pinned him to a wall with a chair as he crawled after them, the FBI said Thursday.
One of the doctors, who has yet to be identified, was wounded in the neck in a struggle for the gun with the suspect, but was treated and released following the melee at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach, Florida, the FBI and hospital officials said.
Another VA employee was wounded in the buttocks in the burst of gunfire by suspect Larry Ray Bon, 59, of Michigan, who was "screaming for cigarettes" before opening fire, the FBI said in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Bon, who is believed to have served briefly in the Army and lost his legs later in civilian life, entered the hospital at about 8:30 a.m. and was in the emergency room for a psychiatric exam at 6:30 p.m. when he pulled a handgun that may have been hidden in the "scooter" he used, the FBI and hospital officials said.
FBI Special Agent Blake Crotty said in an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint that the two doctors, identified only by the initials "B.G." and "E.A.," were at their desks in the emergency room when a technician shouted that there was someone with a gun.
At least three shots were fired, and B.G. immediately put out notice that the hospital was in an active shooter situation. He then saw "a white male, double amputee on a scooter" approaching, Crotty said.
The suspect was complaining about cigarettes, and B.G. told him that there were cigarettes behind him in an attempt at distraction, Crotty said.
"At this point, 'B.G.' rushed towards Bon in an attempt to disarm him," and "the two began to struggle with one another when Bon fired approximately three more shots," wounding the doctor in the neck, Crotty said in the complaint.
B.G. managed to wrest the gun away from Bon, and it ended up in the hands of E.A., who held it over her head and used a chair to fend off Bon as he crawled after her in an attempt to get it back, Crotty said.
B.G., fearing that Bon might get the gun again, shouted at E.A. to throw it to him, Crotty said. She did, and it fell to the floor.
B.G. picked it up and handed it to a nurse, as a patient came to E.A.'s aid. The two of them used the chair to pin the alleged gunman to a wall until law enforcement arrived, Crotty said.
Bon was to appear in U.S. District Court later Thursday on charges that he "forcibly assaulted and inflicted bodily injury on a federal employee" engaged in the performance of official duties, Crotty said in the affidavit.
Outside the hospital Wednesday night, according to a Florida Sun-Sentinel report, FBI Special Agent Justin Fleck told reporters, "In between shots, a doctor saw an opportunity to jump on the subject and disarmed him and, while doing that, sustained a gunshot wound to his neck -- so pretty heroic."
In a statement Thursday, Mary Kay Rutan, a medical center spokeswoman, said the wounded doctor "has been released from the hospital and is doing well. We thank him for his efforts to subdue the suspect."
Rutan credited security procedures and training for preventing the incident from escalating. "
The West Palm Beach VA medical center continuously conducts safety training and exercises to help ensure appropriate responses to active threat situations, and that training was put to great use yesterday," she said in the statement.
In a statement, the AMVETS veterans service organization expressed hope that the doctor will make a full recovery and also stressed the importance that "the veteran's reasons for his actions are uncovered immediately."
"The reasoning behind why this veteran committed this heinous act is vital to preventing events like this from happening again," AMVETS said.
The FBI's criminal complaint said that Bon had been admitted to the medical center for mental health treatment under Florida's Baker Act, which allows for a patient to be hospitalized involuntarily if they are considered unstable or a danger to themselves or others.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.