A Department of Veterans Affairs employee caught on security camera assaulting a veteran patient at Fort McPherson, Georgia, has been suspended from his job without pay, a VA official said Thursday.
Lawrence Gaillard Jr., who works as a patient advocate at the VA outpatient clinic located in downtown Atlanta, was arrested and charged April 28 for allegedly assaulting 73-year-old Vietnam veteran Phillip Webb earlier that day.
The altercation was captured on video, which was published Tuesday by WSB-TV in Atlanta.
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"The employee has been indefinitely suspended without pay," VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said. "The indefinite suspension is in place, and we are unable to comment further as the matter remains under investigation."
Hayes did not explain the timeline for when Gaillard was put on unpaid leave, something the agency announced nearly two months after the incident.
During the assault, a VA employee who prosecutors say was Gaillard is seen grabbing Webb's hands, forcing him across the room, choking him and kicking him in the head after slamming him to the ground.
Gaillard initially was charged with felony assault by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Georgia. The case was later transferred to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office over jurisdictional matters.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough apologized to Webb on Wednesday during a press conference in Washington, D.C. McDonough said he watched the video and found it "heartbreaking and so contrary to [the VA's] values."
"On behalf of VA, I apologize to that veteran and the veteran's family," McDonough said. "We are cooperating fully with the Fulton County criminal investigation."
Webb said he did not know why Gaillard attacked him. He told WSB-TV that he was at the VA to receive instructions for a pending hernia operation and knocked on Gaillard's office door to tell him he planned to use the restroom.
In the video, Gaillard is seen pointing his finger in Webb's face, to which Webb responded by smacking at Gaillard's finger.
"He said, 'Man, I'll go upside your head.' I said, 'No, you won't,' [and] that's the last thing I remember," Webb told the station. "I'm still trying to figure out why he hit me."
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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