A gunman fatally shot a doctor and then himself on Wednesday afternoon at an El Paso Veterans Administration clinic. Authorities are still unsure to what prompted the Army veteran to commit the shooting.
CBS News has reported that officials have stated that the shooter, Jerry Serrato, was a 48-year-old Army veteran who left the military in 2007 with an honorable discharge. Ranked as a Specialist, he had served a four-month tour in Iraq.
The victim of the shooter, Dr. Timothy Fjordbak, was a 63-year-old civilian psychologist who was employed for the VA.
Back in 2013, Fjordbak had reported that Serrato made a verbal threat against him at an El Paso supermarket. According to authorities, it appeared that Serrato had some sort of perceived or real grievance against Fjordbak and had said something to the effect of, “I know what you did and I will take care of it.”
On Tuesday, Fort Bliss Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty confirmed the shooting happened at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s clinic, which is in a complex that includes the William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
“The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe,” said Twitty on the day of the shooting. “Everything is under control and there is no immediate threat to Fort Bliss or the local community.”
Neither Fort Bliss Army Base authorities nor the FBI have an explanation on why the incident happened. They have confirmed the doctor was killed on the fourth floor of the VA clinic and that Serrato committed suicide.
The shooting occurred only four months after new security procedures were put into action. Because a military assessment found the base was not completely compliant with Department of Defense directives, the new measures included limiting access to Defense Department personnel at specific gates and random vehicle checks. There were still four gates open to the public.
According to the Associated Press, the El Paso VA clinic came under scrutiny last year when a federal audit found it had one of the longest wait times for veterans trying to see a doctor for the first time. More than 690 veterans living in the El Paso area were surveyed, with results showing they waited more than two months on average to see a VA mental health professional. It also revealed the veterans waited even longer to see a physician.
KVUE reported that the El Paso VA Clinic will continue to be closed Wednesday and Thursday while agents take on the task of questioning hundreds of staff and patients who were present during the shooting. So far investigators have shared few details on the incident.
“Those people were here seeking medical assistance, so we understand the difficulties that this situation presents to them and we’re trying to expeditiously get through those hundreds of witnesses to find out details about this incident,” said Douglas Lindquist, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI El Paso office.
In a statement, the VA said that it “is deeply saddened by the tragic situation that has occurred in El Paso, and we are actively working with our partners at Fort Bliss to investigate this matter.”