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FBI identifies former VA clinic clerk as gunman who killed psychologist

FBI questioning scores of witnesses in VA clinic shooting

FBI officials on Wednesday identified a former clerk at a West Texas veterans’ clinic as the gunman who fatally shot a psychologist before turning the weapon on himself.

The suspect, Jerry Serrato, 48, was a former soldier in the Army. His victim in the shooting Tuesday was identified as Dr. Timothy Fjordbak, said Douglas Lindquist, special agent in charge of the El Paso FBI office.

Serrato used a .380-caliber handgun in his attack at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System at Ft. Bliss, Lindquist told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

Officials did not provide a specific motive for the shooting but said that Fjordbak had reported Serrato for making a verbal threat at a supermarket in October 2013. The exact nature of the threat was not given.

The gunman medically retired from the Army in 2007 and left with the rank of specialist.

The FBI said it had interviewed over 400 witnesses.

The incident began about 3:10 p.m. at the clinic, which was then locked down while Ft. Bliss police searched for the shooter. El Paso and military police and other agencies sealed off entrances to the hospital area and a pair of U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopters circled the large hospital complex next to Fred Wilson Avenue.

The clinic, which was closed on Wednesday will be closed again  Thursday, according to its acting director, Peter Dancy.

Security has also been stepped up at Ft. Bliss, officials said.

The clinic, like many VA facilities nationwide, has been criticized for long wait times for veterans trying to see a doctor. A federal audit released last month found that El Paso’s wait times were the sixth-worst in the nation, ranking 123rd among 128 VA healthcare systems.

VA officials had said they'd hired more staff and were working to improve service.

In a prepared statement, the VA said it “was deeply saddened by the tragic situation that has occurred in El Paso, and we are actively working with our partners at Ft. Bliss to investigate this matter.”

“The safety and continued care of our veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation,” the agency said.

“The alleged shooter is dead and we have one casualty and that casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe,” Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, commanding general of Ft. Bliss and the 1st Armored Division, said at a news conference Tuesday night.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

2:53 p.m.: This story was updated with new details.

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