Army veteran who killed two people was turned away by VA hospital, parents say

Nicholas Horner's parents say he did not know what he was doing when he shot three people.

Updated: June 15, 2020 - 9:04am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Nicholas Horner's parents say that their Army veteran son was not the same after he served three tours of duty and suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder.  

"His personality was just totally off," his mother Karen Horner told journalist Sharyl Attkisson during the latest episode of the "Full Measure" television show.

"By the time he was discharged with TBI and post traumatic stress disorder the Army had prescribed no fewer than 11 drugs, according to his records," Attkisson said. "And he reported suffering hallucinations, seizures, depression, anxiety and flashbacks."

Horner told his parents that he was unsuccessful in repeated attempts to gain admission for in-patient treatment at an Altoona, Pennsylvania Veterans Affairs Medical Center, according to Attkisson.

"He had guns hidden all through his house, under couch cushions, in the bedroom, in the basement," his mother said. She mentioned him locking doors and described him as "afraid."

One day, Nicholas Horner shot two people, killing one, while trying to rob a Subway— he fatally shot another person blocks away. Nicholas Horner reportedly committed suicide in prison.

His father Daniel Horner said that Nicholas did not know what he was doing. Nicholas actually "thought he was chasing somebody that did the shooting, he said," Daniel Horner explained. "And when the police did arrest him and taser him and everything, he asked the police if they caught the guy," the father explained.

Daniel Horner continued, "The thing with Nick though is he said, 'I don't remember doing it, but if I did it, I need to be put to death.' "

Army veteran James DeNofrio, an administrator at the Altoona VA Center, discovered a list of hundreds of people who had suffered traumatic brain injury, but did not receive care. He said that out of 600 on the list, six killed themselves and one, Nicholas Horner, murdered others.

DeNofrio reported his findings, but a year later reviewed and discovered that some 100 veterans still were not getting care, while new people had been added to the list. "Another veteran shot himself," DeNofrio said.

"Instead of fixing it, DeNofrio says the leadership at the Altoona VA Center launched a lengthy retaliatory campaign against him, turning his job into a nightmare while he continued to blow the whistle on other problems he said put vets' lives at risk," Attkisson reported.

She said the Altoona facility offered a written statement but refused to provide an interview.

"VA conducted an in depth review of these allegations, which date back ... to the previous administration, and determined all of the most serious charges were not substantiated."

The statement also said that the Inspector General " ... determined VA adequately addressed the allegations and closed its case in 2016."

It also pushed back regarding DeNofrio, saying that " ... just because someone identifies as a whistleblower, doesn't automatically give credence to their claims."

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