Following Shooting, Florida VA Hospital Increases Police Presence and Security Checks

Following Shooting, Florida VA Hospital Increases Police Presence and Security Checks

The hospital where a mentally ill veteran opened fire in an emergency room is also home to a congressional office.

Several months after a mentally ill veteran opened fire on doctors and patients at a veterans hospital in Florida, the medical center has taken steps to better secure its facility and address concerns about how the man was able to bring a gun on the property.

Larry Ray Bon, a veteran who was homeless after moving from Michigan to Palm Beach, Florida, brought a gun to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in February. Court records showed that he fired six shots before a doctor was able to wrestle the gun away from him. One doctor was hit in the neck, and two others were injured.

Bon reportedly had been inside the hospital for hours before pulling the gun out from under his wheelchair cushion, according to local news outlet WPTV. There were no police officers inside the emergency room where Bon was waiting for medical attention.

The incident raised concerns from patients and medical professionals alike about the hospital’s security. Rep. Brian Mast, who served in the military and has a congressional office in the same hospital, echoed those concerns in a recent interview with WPTV. (The VA has recently told Mast and other representatives that they are being evicted from their offices in VA facilities).

"I would think that would just be common sense that you are checking them for weapons at that point,” Mast said, referring to Bon’s wait time in the emergency room for hours before the shooting. “It's beyond me that it didn't happen.”

Mast, who has been in talks with hospital officials for years about security issues, added that the center is going to have “100 percent ID checks” at every entrance to the facility. The emergency room also has a better police presence in the months following the shooting, Mast said.

"Making sure that there is 24-hour security presence inside of the emergency room, it's an important step in the right direction,” Mast said. “But that begs the question of why shouldn't there be the same presence in other places.”

Despite some requests for metal detectors from patients, the VA is not planning on adding them to the hospital, WPTV reported. In a statement, the VA said it is “committed to ensuring patient and employee safety at all of its medical centers and facilities.” The agency added that the West Palm Beach center provides regular updates on the facility’s security plan to the congressional delegation and most recently did so in August.

That update included the addition of enhanced entrance security and the “inclusion of passive security measures,” the statement reads. More details could not be shared about the nature of those measures because it could jeopardize security.

“It is VA’s goal to ensure health care providers and police personnel work collaboratively while protecting the safety of our unique Veteran population,” the VA said.

Bon is still in police custody but has not been formally indicted by U.S. attorneys as the defense and prosecution assess his mental health. He will have his next hearing on Oct. 21.

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