Veteran and double amputee, 60-year-old Larry Ray Bon, was “committed” for 25 years after opening fire on Florida VA hospital. Bon pulled a handgun from his wheelchair and opened fire, randomly targeting individuals inside the hospital. While no one was killed, two people were struck by bullets, including a doctor.
Bon was subsequently committed for 25 years to a mental health facility. However, the facility has released him stating that he no longer needs treatment. Bon will now appear before a judge who will likely sentence him to 12.5 to 25 years.
Bon pleaded guilty to three counts of assault, impeding federal employees, and illegal possession of a firearm. A doctor stepped in to prevent Bon from targeting more people. That doctor sustained a gunshot wound to the neck but survived. Police praised his swift action and that had the doctor not stepped in, many would have likely died.
Bon was described by police as a homeless man with a criminal history. Bon served in the military during the 70s, but police don’t believe that he lost his legs in combat. It is unclear how Bon lost his legs and why he decided to open fire on the VA.
There was no insanity plea in this case. Bon pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was then remanded to the care of a forensic psych ward. Upon realizing that his condition was stabilized, the facility then sent Bon back to court and the judge will now allow him to serve out his sentence.
If you’re wondering why Bon didn’t plead insanity, it’s largely because insanity defenses are very difficult to win. The bar is low when it comes to competency and knowledge. A person must only be aware of the consequences of their actions.
A completely separate issue is a competency hearing to stand trial. If a psychiatrist testifies that a defendant is not competent to stand trial, the court may remand the defendant into the care of a forensic psych ward to stabilize him until he is competent to stand trial. If that’s the case, the defendant still stands trial for the charges.
A plea of insanity is placed before the jury. The jury must decide whether or not the defendant knew right from wrong or whether they knew the consequences of their actions when they committed the crime. The bar is extremely low for conviction. Rarely does an insanity defense exculpate the perpetrator of a violent crime.
In this case, a history of mental illness or a diagnosis of a perception disorder, like schizophrenia, could have been used for the defense. Whether or not the jury bought the argument that schizophrenia exculpates a violent individual who tried to kill several people, however, is unlikely.
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