CHICAGO — An Indianapolis man with schizophrenia was sentenced to 51 months in prison Tuesday, six months after he pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a rifle that he fired at a VA hospital on Chicago’s Near West Side three years ago.
Bernard Harvey, 43, was arrested Aug. 19, 2019, shortly after he fired several rifle rounds near the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, located near Taylor Street and Damen Avenue. No one was shot, though the building was struck by gunfire. The gun used in the shooting was previously reported stolen in Indianapolis.
Harvey pleaded guilty in January to illegal possession of a 9 mm rifle, court records show. He has remained in custody since his arrest nearly three years ago, and he’s undergone a series of mental health evaluations to determine his competency, including two four-month stints at a medical center in North Carolina.
Before issuing the sentence — which will be followed by three years of supervised release — U.S. District Judge Robert Dow offered Harvey the chance to address the court.
“I apologize for my behavior,” Harvey, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and speaking in a hushed voice, told the judge. “I was off my medicine. I apologize.”
Throughout the two-hour hearing, Dow repeatedly noted that Harvey’s mental health issues were a mitigating factor in his sentencing decision. Dow said that Harvey’s case was in “the top 2% of cases that need close supervision.”
“It’s really not a typical case in any way,” Dow said.
Dow said that Harvey would likely be released from prison in the next eight or nine months with good time credit. The judge said that, as Harvey’s release date nears, he will schedule a hearing to determine where he will reside during his period of supervised release.
Federal prosecutors noted that, despite his mental illness, Harvey’s guilty plea marked his third conviction for illegal gun possession. “It was pure luck that nobody was shot, let alone killed, and that he faces merely a gun charge rather than murder,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum. They asked Dow to sentence Harvey to between 51 and 63 months in prison.
Harvey’s defense attorney, Gareth Morris, called for a sentence “substantially below the guideline range,” arguing that, “Mr. Harvey does not deserve a severe punishment because his conduct was largely driven by his illness, not by any evil intent.” Morris declined to comment on Harvey’s sentence after Tuesday’s hearing.
The shooting — which occurred just blocks from Chicago’s FBI field office and several other medical facilities — prompted a swift, large-scale response from various law enforcement agencies.
After Harvey was taken into custody, then-FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sallett said, “We avoided tragedy here in the city of Chicago today.”