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Crime & Courts

Veteran, 68, shot dead at St. Pete VA hospital


Published:   |   Updated: October 25, 2013 at 10:52 PM

ST. PETERSBURG — Police fatally shot a 68-year-old veteran who claimed he had a bomb and lunged at them with a knife in the emergency room of the Bay Pines VA Health Care center, an FBI spokesman said.

The man drove to the medical center at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd. about 5 p.m. Friday and walked into the lobby of the emergency room carrying a backpack, said Special Agent Dave Couvertier with the FBI.

The man said he had a bomb, and when police with the Department of Veterans Affairs confronted him, he brandished a knife and lunged at them, Couvertier said.

The officers shot and wounded him. He was treated in the hospital and died there from his injuries.

The man's identity will be released after next of kin are notified, Couvertier said.

Authorities would not comment on how many shots were fired.

Inside the backpack investigators found a suspicious object, Couvertier said, “a piece of PVC pipe, I guess, made to look like a bomb or explosive device.”

Authorities quickly determined “it was not an actual device. It was a hoax device.”

There was no threat at any time to people at the center or the public, Couvertier said.

The motive for the confrontation was not immediately apparent, Couvertier said.

“We are trying to figure out exactly why this happened and did it involve anybody else,” he said. “At this point it looks, appears, and every indication is that it is an isolated situation perpetrated by one individual.

The first floor of the six-story medical center was evacuated while authorities carried out a sweep.

The first floor contains the emergency room, outpatient services, primary care, sterile processing service, and auditorium space.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the emergency room was evacuated,” said Bay Pines spokesman Jason Dangel.

He said patients in the emergency room were sent to other hospitals, and no other patients were affected.

“It was a very orderly evacuation, emotions were pretty calm,” Dangel said.

At about 10 p.m., authorities estimated it would be hours before patients and others are allowed inside.

Patients headed to the emergency room also were diverted to other hospitals.

The Tampa bureau of the FBI took charge of the investigation.

Other agencies assisting included the Department of Veterans Affairs police, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, St. Petersburg Police Department canine unit, Tampa Police Department bomb squad, the VA Office of Inspector General and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

“We are going to sit back and let them do their job,” Dangel said.

Stay with TBO.com for updates.

jpatino@tampatrib.com

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