Congressman pushes for answers in death of veteran at VA facility

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Channel 9 has been pushing for answers and accountability for two months since the death of U.S. Navy veteran Luke Smyth, 37, which was captured on camera.

He was a mental health patient, who was tackled and put in a headlock on Sept. 8, 2017 inside a South Carolina VA facility.

Smyth was held on the ground for 10 minutes while medical staffers sat on him with arms around his neck at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia.

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"This was a tragic, I think avoidable, event," Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said. "I really believe it was."

Roe is a doctor and the leading Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos told Roe the VA has not answered her questions about what happened to the employees involved and whether they instituted more mental health training.

He said he will get some answers.

"That's a reasonable ask," Roe said. "Has there been additional training? A reeducation of people?"

Roe said Congress is fighting to fix the VA with more money for mental health care and the chance to get care from civilian doctors.

Those efforts have not brought comfort to Smyth's family.

"I can only say to the family, how sorry I personally am that this happened," Roe said.

A coroner's report lists Smyth's cause of death as a homicide but no criminal charges were ever filed.

His family is now suing the federal government.

Defense attorneys named eight witnesses they may call to testify in the case, including members of the nursing staff and three doctors.