Gunman surrenders to police at Topeka VA medical center

TOPEKA | A U.S. military veteran who went into a Veterans Affairs medical center with a gun Sunday and threatened to hurt himself was admitted to the hospital after surrendering the weapon, officials said.

VA spokesman Jim Gleisberg told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the man is now a patient at the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka. He said the man had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This was truly a very severe way of a veteran asking for care," Gleisberg said. "And I think the public needs to be reminded that they don't have to be that extreme to ask for health care.

The man arrived at the hospital's emergency room around 12:10 p.m. Sunday and asked to talk to a police officer. After VA police arrived, the man pulled out the weapon and threatened himself, Gleisberg said.

Gleisberg said no one else was threatened. No one was hurt and there were no reports of shots being fired.

He said he could not provide details about the weapon, but Topeka Police Capt. Jerry Stanley told The Topeka Capital-Journal it was a handgun.

"At that time, the VA police acted very professionally and started talking to the individual and tried to convince the veteran to leave the emergency room so that other veterans who needed help could get help," Gleisberg said. "And the veteran responded and they left the emergency room and went to a different area."

Meanwhile, staff called for help and other law enforcement agencies and a SWAT team responded. Gleisberg said the situation ended around 1:45 p.m.

Neither Gleisberg nor Topeka police could say why the man eventually surrendered.

Gleisberg also said he couldn't provide more details about the man, including what type of care he is receiving and whether he had been a patient of the VA in the past, citing federal privacy laws. He also did not know the branch of the military in which the man served.

Gleisberg said the man could be charged under federal or city ordinances.

"It is a shame he felt so emotionally distraught that he had to go about it that way," Gleisberg said. "The good news is we have him under VA care now."