The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into alleged threats a Kentwood man made against Veterans Affairs employees last week, saying he wanted to attack a VA office with a loaded gun.
A department inspector claims William Wheeler told a VA Crisis Center dispatcher “that he was angry about having his Veterans Affairs disability benefit increase denied … that he intended to injure employees at a Veterans Affairs Office … that he was willing to ‘take himself out as well.’ ”
A criminal complaint was filed Thursday at the federal courthouse in New Orleans by Inspector Shawn Sellards, of the department’s Federal Protective Service.
Shortly after noon that day, Sellards said he learned that a person called the Crisis Center in Canandaigua, New York, and complained that his disability benefits had not been increased, the complaint states.
The caller, identified as Wheeler, said he was sitting in a vehicle outside a Veterans Affairs office with a loaded “7.62.”
“Wheeler told the dispatcher that he intended to ‘take a few of them out,’ ” the complaint states.
It does not say whether Wheeler was believed to have actually been outside a Veterans Affairs office with a weapon.
Jacqueline Yost, a spokeswoman for the Protective Service, said Tuesday she was unfamiliar with the case and was not able to comment on it.
The Veterans Affairs used the call to look up personal information and found Wheeler’s home address in Kentwood. A Veterans Affairs mental health doctor called the city police, who found Wheeler at the address.
Wheeler told officers he called the hotline “upset that his disability benefits were not being increased and that he could not get any help from the Veterans Affairs dispatcher,” the complaint states.
He faces one count of transmitting in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat. Wheeler appeared in court Monday and defense attorney Claude Kelly was appointed to his case. Kelly did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
In a financial affidavit, Wheeler wrote that he is disabled and had been a scaffold builder, though he has not worked since 2012.
He said disability payments were his sole sources of income.
He listed his VA disability income as $255 and his Social Security disability payment as $1,535, though the form does not specify the payment period.