ATLANTA — The Atlanta Department of Veterans Department is finally taking action after “Channel 2 Investigates” aired disturbing video of a VA employee attacking an elderly veteran.
Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray first broke the story of the attack and first shared the video, which shows employee Lawrence Gaillard shove the 73-year-old veteran into a door, then throw him to the ground by the neck and kick him in the head. The attack happened at a VA office at Fort McPherson on April 28.
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The victim, Phillip Webb, suffered from a brain bleed so bad he doesn’t remember the attack.
Gaillard is now suspended, but it took nearly two months for the VA to take action.
Gray spent a month and a half trying to get hold of the video, but it wasn’t until after the story aired on Channel 2 Action News that Gaillard was finally suspended without pay.
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The U.S. secretary of veterans affairs, Denis McDonough, is now commenting on the video.
“You know, I watched that video and it is heartbreaking,” McDonough said. “It’s abhorrent the behavior that’s depicted there. On behalf of the VA, I apologize to that veteran.”
In the video, Webb sat in the waiting room before knocking on Gaillard’s door to let him know he was going to the bathroom. When Gaillard did come out, the men had a brief argument before Gaillard charged Webb, shoving him against a wall before putting both hands around Webb’s neck and body-slamming him.
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“He was supposed to be helping me, Webb said. “He was Mike-Tysoning me.”
Gray said it’s another example of the Atlanta VA waiting to act until after evidence became public because of a Channel 2 Action News investigation.
In an April audit, the VA inspector general found that Atlanta VA leaders knew for months about pallets of 17,000 pieces of mail piling up in a V.A. basement, but only acted to fix the problem after a joint Channel 2 Action News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation exposed it.
McDonough said that the VA is now cooperating with the Fulton County District Attorney in Gaillard’s case.
“This is behavior that is contrary to our core values at the VA,” McDonough said.
Gaillard was originally charged in federal court by the U.S. attorney, but those charges have been dropped for jurisdictional issues. The case is now in the hands of the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis.
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