Highland News Leader

‘I’m gonna murder you’: Veterans’ advocate on desk duty at SIUE following PTSD episode

Bradley Lavite
Bradley Lavite

The veterans advocate whose manic episode led to him being banned from his office in the Madison County government building has not been barred from the campus of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where he is listed as an adjunct professor.

The university says the veterans advocate, Bradley Lavite, does not have contact with students.

Lavite is the superintendent of the Madison County Veterans Assistance Commission and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves. He has served as a veterans’ advocate and superintendent of veterans’ services for Madison County residents since 2009.

But Lavite has been operating under a cloud since March, when a breakdown his doctors have attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder led to a brief hospitalization and criminal charges for breaking a police car window. Lavite was given court supervision on a Class C misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and was ordered to pay for the broken window.

Dash-cam video of Lavite’s arrest shows him kicking out both rear windows of the police cruiser.

The video shows Lavite, from the back seat, speaking about Jesus, President Barack Obama, and wanting the police car to crash on the way to Gateway Regional Medical Center. He then begins slamming his head repeatedly against one window, then kicking out the windows.

He screams at the police officer: “I’m gonna murder you! I’m gonna (expletive) murder you by the time you get to (expletive) Gateway! You hear that? You got one strike left, buddy.”

After breaking out the second window, Lavite threatens to “jump out this window” and begins climbing out the window, forcing the officer to stop the vehicle.

Since then, Lavite has been locked out of his Madison County Administration Building office, as county officials cited concerns for public safety. While Lavite’s doctor has certified him clear to return to work without restrictions, the county’s doctor disagrees. Lavite and the VAC have now sued Madison County, asking a judge to force them to allow Lavite to return to his office. The county is continuing to pay his salary of about $84,000.

Lavite is listed as an adjunct professor of military science at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. However, university officials said he does not teach classes or mentor cadets, and is not paid by the university for his service there. His Army Reserves unit is based at Fort Knox in Kentucky, and they rotate Reserves officers to assist ROTC programs at various universities, according to SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga.

“We’re aware of his situation, which is why he is not teaching or involved in a mentoring role,” McIlhagga said.

However, Lavite has not been declared “persona non grata,” which would forbid him access to the campus. Instead, for at least the last semester, he has been on desk duty, processing risk assessments, doing paperwork and preparing the program for its command inspection, according to Col. Dave Motes, the outgoing chairman of military science at SIUE.

“He doesn’t have a day-to-day role,” Motes said. “We never used him as an instructor... he’s not the professor, and has very little contact with cadets.”

Motes, who is retiring this summer from SIUE and the U.S. Army, said that “adjunct” is just the word the university database uses for people who need access to the campus and its services. Everyone in the military science department is considered adjunct, including Motes, he said. Lavite is paid by his Army Reserve unit at Fort Knox, not SIUE, he said, and none of the ROTC workers receive state benefits.

Motes said he was aware that Lavite has struggled with PTSD, and of the incident in March. “A lot of soldiers have PTSD and we know how to deal with it,” he said.

But Lavite has never given him any pause in his two years working with the SIUE program, Motes said. “His performance at his job is fine, and he has done nothing to cause me any concern,” he said. “I have had no problem with him in the performance of his duties.”

McIlhagga said they were aware of “some administrative action” pending on Lavite’s case with his Reserves unit, but did not know what it would entail or what they would be free to release. Representatives at the U.S. Army Cadet Command could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit filed against Madison County is pending and names as defendants Madison County, County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, Sheriff John Lakin and County Administrator Joe Parente. No court date has yet been set.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.