Ex-Villager sentenced for firing assault rifle inside Villages VA Clinic

Stephen Cometa

A 63-year-old former Villager will spend 17 years behind bars in a federal prison in connection with a 2016 shooting incident at the VA Outpatient Clinic in The Villages.

Stephen Cometa, 63, was sentenced Thursday during a hearing in Ocala by U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore. The former Village of Chatham resident had been convicted on Dec. 13 of forcibly assaulting and resisting federal employees with a deadly and dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.

Cometa had been transferred to the Marion County Jail on Wednesday, March 13 to await his hearing. He was removed from the facility on Thursday at 10:16 a.m. to begin serving his sentence at an undisclosed federal prison.

An investigation following the incident showed that Cometa, a veteran himself, entered the clinic on Dec. 13, 2016 carrying a loaded AR-15 assault rifle, a concealed handgun and hundreds of rounds of extra ammunition for both firearms. Cometa walked through the clinic to a VA psychiatrist’s office, interrupted an ongoing treatment session and pointed the assault rifle at the psychologist as he opened the door, court records show.

The psychiatrist, as well as a VA contractor and two VA police officers, struggled with Cometa for control of the rifle and eventually subdued him. During the melee, Cometa fired the assault rifle, shooting holes in the walls, ceiling and furniture.

Former Village of Chatham resident Stephen Cometa, 63, entered the VA Outpatient Clinic in The Villages on Dec. 13, 2016 carrying a loaded AR-15 assault rifle, a concealed handgun and hundreds of rounds of extra ammunition for both firearms.

Prior to the incident at the clinic, located at 8900 SE 165th Mulberry Ln. just off SE Hwy. 42, Cometa took to Facebook to share personal issues he was facing. He had indicated he was from Rochester, N.Y. and attended West Irondequoit High School. He and his wife, who had lived in a home on Bellhaven Loop in the Village of Chatham, had been granted a divorce in Marion County just days before the shooting. And it appeared that he also had lost a beloved pet.

“My cat Roxy went over the rainbow bridge Monday 11/7/16, after 20 years of companionship, till i see you again,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

On Oct. 13, 2015, Cometa also sent the following email to Villages-News.com:

Yes guns fire bullets, Who is operating firings mechanism?
How do you stop illegal gun trafficking?
These questions need to be answered !
In a society where killing people that jumps back to life in video games are the normal?
Media GLORIFIES mass murders, and empathize with the cause of these criminals?
War’s are now being FOUGHT and WON in the Media , not on the battlefield?
Ware is America’s future headed ?
The military tactics that the GREATEST GENERATION used are not acceptable to the American people of today ?
Steve Cometa.