Hospital worker Donald Harvey's confession of mass murder in Cincinnati raises new questions about the administration of the local Veterans Administration Medical Center, where Harvey worked for 10 years.
We have reported earlier about allegations in congressional testimony that the VA facility's chief of police, Daniel Wilson, beat up black patients and visitors. Yet Harvey, who is white, was let off with a slap on the wrist when Wilson caught him in the hospital with a loaded revolver, hypodermic needles, syringes and three books on the occult.
The VA hospital orderly was fined $50 for carrying a firearm on federal property but was allowed to resign rather than face criminal charges or administrative disciplinary proceedings, which would have been entered on his employment record.
That was in July 1985. In February 1986, Harvey was hired at Daniel Drake Memorial Hospital, where, according to his confession, he murdered 21 patients.
The VA hospital's director, Donald Zeigenhorn, has explained that Harvey had not been formally charged with carrying a concealed weapon because the loaded .38-caliber revolver was not "concealed ready at hand" as Ohio law requires for such a charge. The gun was in a zippered case inside a gym bag that Harvey was carrying. Law enforcement sources in Ohio have questioned that interpretation of the statute.
More allegations of brutality by Wilson were aired at a recent Senate hearing on legislation designed to protect whistle blowers. Harold R. Hipple, a former security officer at the VA hospital, testified that Wilson attacked a black man, John R. Shives, who had parked illegally at the center.
"Wilson called him a 'dirtball,' 'scumbag' and 'black bastard,' among other names," Hipple testified. He then described what followed:
"Wilson grabbed him in a bear hug. The chief tried to kick Shives' legs out from under him, but in the process kicked me also, causing a blood vessel to burst in my leg." After other officers jumped on Shives, Wilson "began choking him and gouging him in the eyes," Hipple testified, adding: "Shives was not hostile by any means until provoked by Wilson."
Last April, we reported on congressional testimony by another officer at the hospital, John Berter, who said Wilson beat two black men who had been panhandling on the premises.
Wilson has refused to comment on the allegations. He did note that the FBI had closed its investigation of the charges and that the Justice Department has declined to prosecute him.
Sen. David H. Pryor (D-Ark.) noted at the recent hearing that the FBI had "found nothing to exonerate" Wilson.
In fact, one of the FBI agents who worked on the case, Mike McDaniels, told Hipple that he had solid evidence of brutality by Wilson. Hipple secretly taped the conversation. McDaniels was not under oath, but Pryor read a transcript of his remarks into the record. The FBI agent said: "I've got 10 people I have interviewed, 10 that I call victims, 10 victims, which is pretty substantial in my opinion." He also said, according to the transcript: "You have got other witnesses saying they saw it. It is still not enough."