CHICAGO (TNS) — A man who walked into a Veterans Affairs hospital on Chicago’s Near West Side Monday with a semi-automatic rifle after firing shots outside the hospital has been charged in federal court with illegally possessing a firearm because of his background as a convicted felon, authorities said.


The criminal complaint alleged that Bernard Harvey, 40, of Indianapolis, had fired shots outside the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center before entering the hospital’s Taylor Street entrance while holding the rifle with its muzzle pointed toward the floor.


Law enforcement officers saw Harvey in the clinic area and ordered him to drop the rifle, according to the charges. He complied and then dropped to the floor himself on orders of the officers, the complaint said. He was then placed under arrest.


Outside, officers found 6 mm casings near the Taylor Street entrance, the complaint said. A witness told officers he saw Harvey firing a gun while walking west on Taylor before entering the hospital.


“We avoided tragedy here in the city of Chicago today,” Jeffrey Sallet, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, told reporters after the incident Monday.


Nine months ago, a shooting at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center left three people in addition to the gunman dead.


At Harvey’s initial appearance in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox questioned if Harvey was able to understand the proceedings as she read him his rights.


At one point, the judge asked Harvey to confirm his name and birth date, but Harvey, speaking softly, was unable to give his age.


“Do either of you have any doubts about Mr. Harvey’s competency this afternoon?” Cox asked the prosecutor and Harvey’s court-appointed attorney.


His attorney, Santino Coleman, an assistant federal defender, said he has been trying to reach Harvey’s family and plans to look into his mental health.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Rubenstein said reports from the Illinois Department of Correction indicate Harvey had spent time in psychiatric care but said it was “too early to weigh in on (mental) competency.”


Harvey will remain in custody until at least a detention hearing scheduled for Friday.