Elderly Veteran Shoots VA Official In Dispute Over Benefits
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ An 86-year-old World War II veteran who got into an argument over benefits in a Veterans Affairs office pulled a handmade gun out of his pants and shot an official in the face, authorities said.
Leonard Peters apparently bypassed metal detectors at a downtown federal building Monday because he was brought in through an underground parking garage in a VA van, agency spokesman Harry Feather said.
The official, Edward Baldauf, 50, was listed in serious condition today with wounds to his face and shoulder. He was expected to recover.
The two men were across a desk from one another in a fourth-floor office and Peters was trying to persuade Baldauf to waive a requirement that he repay several hundred dollars in overpayments of VA benefits, Feather said.
Peters ``got irritated, stood up and fired a handmade weapon at him,″ Feather said. He was subdued by workers until police arrived.
Peters was jailed on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and weapons charges. He saw a court-appointed psychiatrist Monday night.
The gun was fashioned from a metal tube, a 12-gauge shotgun shell and a firing mechanism.
Pellets from the gun fractured the orbit of Baldauf’s left eye but did not penetrate his eyeball.
``It looks like he moved his head to the right at the last second. Otherwise, it could have been much worse,″ said Dr. Jorge Varcelotti, a trauma surgeon at Mercy Hospital. He expected Baldauf to have no permanent loss of vision.
Baldauf’s brother said the assistant finance officer and Navy veteran had no fears about returning to the VA as soon as possible.
``He said, `Hell, I was in Vietnam. I can handle this,‴ John Baldauf said.
Peters served in the South Pacific in World War II, but Feather did not know the branch of service.
Tom McFee, who lives across the street from Peters in Altoona, described him as an eccentric recluse who displayed homemade political posters on top of his car and had a well-kept lawn.
``I don’t know if anyone in the neighborhood knows anything about him,″ McFee said.
Feather would not discuss the question of Peters’ disability. Peters was an avid softball player as recently as five years ago and once worked for an oil company.