Friday, October 9, 2015

Update On Escaped Psychiatric Hospital Patient Stand-Off Ordeal And First Hand Account From Neighbor

incident last Monday involving escaped psychiatric patient
from Children's Hospital

Last Monday, September 28, a Children's Hospital psychiatric patient escaped from the hospital when the power failed and proceeded to walk into the neighborhood, breaking into a home in the 4300 block of 53rd Avenue NE and barricading himself in there for almost five hours.

The teen-age patient finally came out of the home when his mother arrived and reportedly asked him to come out.

The individual reportedly was not on a "supervised walk" as the Laurelhurst Blog had initially reported, as was conveyed by neighbors in the area.
This incident, turned more serious when it was learned, that weapons were possibly in the home, resulting in about four SWAT vehicles racing to the affected area blocking it off and not allowing residents to return to their homes for many hours.

It was reported by a nearby neighbor that the initial call from the Hospital to the Police somehow did not get broadcast over the Police scanner so that Public School District Security who monitor activity around public schools was not able to inform the Principal at Laurelhurst Elementary School. And Villa Academy reportedly found out about the incident from a parent. 

Fortunately, the owners of the home where the patient broke in had left the house for one hour to go grocery shopping and returned to find the ordeal happening in their home. 

Just one hour prior, the owner was in the house alone with her one-year old granddaughter.  A basement occupant was not at home at the time.

A resident directly affected by the incident wrote to the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

Thank you for doing whatever you can to fully inform the neighborhood (including Laurelhurst School and the Villa Academy) about this incident involving the psychiatric patient who escaped from Seattle Children’s Hospital.   
We have at least three questions, and we hope you will pursue this until unequivocal answers are obtained from the Hospital that you can share with the community.
First: does the Hospital psychiatric ward house (or can it be used to house) violent offenders?  Our understanding is this individual’s confinement at the Hospital psychiatric ward was court-ordered.  Although the common perception of Children’s Hospital is that they treat primarily young children who are not a danger to the community, this individual was a late teenage, adult-size male who committed a violent home invasion.  After entering a storage area through an unlocked window, he kicked in a locked interior door to gain access to the living area of the house.    
We worry about what might have happened if the  house had been occupied at the time of the invasion, and whether this incident could have ended tragically.   
Second: why was Laurelhurst School and the Villa Academy not immediately notified of the escape?  Both schools are very close to the Hospital, and should have been immediately notified to lock down their schools for the safety of their students. 
Third: why were the Hospital security staff not authorized to apprehend the escapee?  The Hospital security staff had already caught up with the escapee immediately prior to the invasion of the home, but the Hospital procedures did not allow them to apprehend him (only to call the police, which they did).   
Incredibly, Hospital staff just watched as the escapee entered the back yard to break into the house, and did nothing to prevent it.   
What if the escapee had then attacked the occupants?  Would they just stand by and also let that happen?   
If the Hospital is going to expose the surrounding community to this type of risk, they need to employ security staff who are trained and authorized to prevent crimes and fully protect the community when potentially dangerous patients escape from their custody.

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted Hospital representatives for a statement and Todd Johnson, Vice President, Facilities and Supply Chain, wrote:
Last Monday afternoon, a patient from our Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit left the hospital without being discharged and made his way into a nearby neighborhood. Seattle Children’s notified the Seattle Police Department who safely returned the patient to the hospital. 
We are investigating how the patient was able to leave the unit, and are taking extra security precautions to assure this does not happen again. We are grateful to the Laurelhurst neighbors who were very supportive and accommodating throughout this event, as well as the Seattle Police Department for their diligent and professional work.
The Laurelhurst Blog staff responded saying:
The patient reportedly escaped from the hospital if that is what is referred to as "left the hospital without being discharged."   
We understand the power went off and the doors opened to the patient's unit and he got out. Why did not the back-up generator immediately kick-on preventing that door from opening and all the other doors used to get out of the hospital? Why was the patient not directly supervised so he could not leave? We understand that that particular area of the hospital is configured built so that all patient units are secured and visible from the main nurses desk.  
The SWAT team was called in and thought the teen had weapons, all happening in a residential neighborhood with schools nearby.  Your statement doesn't clearly address security concerns.  
You say: "Seattle Children’s notified the Seattle Police Department who safely returned the patient to the hospital."  It would be expected and assumed that the hospital would immediately  call SPD for the patient's safety and that of the neighborhood, confirmed by how many SWAT vehicles rushed to the scene. 
What extra precautions are being taken? How was the patient able to leave in the first place when that area is already very well secured? When the psych ward went on-line a couple of years ago why were not security measures put into place at that time to have every allowed such an incident? 
You say: "We are grateful to the Laurelhurst neighbors who were very supportive and accommodating throughout this event,.."  However, SPD asked them to leave their homes as it was not safe and a large area was cordoned off  and neighbors were clearly scared. So could you please explain your statement?  
Your statement doesn't address any specifics on how it could ever have happened in the first place and how it will not happen again, and how the safety of the patient and those in the neighborhood was compromised for many hours.   
It would perhaps appear that the hospital is at fault for not being prepared for any type of electrical glitch resulting in a serious security breach in a residential neighborhood. It is unclear why the hospital does not have a better security system in place, rather than waiting for an incident to happen then saying they will look into better safety precautions.

Todd responded:
Please know we take the safety of our surrounding neighborhood and community, as well as the safety of our patients and families, very seriously.  
We understand this situation caused a high level of concern within Laurelhurst and we are very sorry that this occurred. We are also appreciative of the exemplary teamwork that took place between our neighbors in Laurelhurst, our staff and the Seattle Police Department that led to the resolution of this situation.
After our initial investigation, we’ve identified that the patient was able to the leave the locked unit as a result of an unexpected mechanical malfunction that occurred during fire and smoke detection tests. As a result, we have formed a multidisciplinary team to review the event, identify any additional gaps that may have occurred and take action to correct them. We are also taking extra security precautions to assure this does not happen again.  
Again, we are very sorry for any upset this caused our community and thank you for your understanding.

 The Laurelhurst Blog responded:
If the Hospital takes "security" of the neighborhood "seriously - could you please explain why "security measures" were not in place before this event happened? Certainly all scenarios, including malfunctions with fire testing are taken into account before putting a psych unit on-line.
And why wasn't a " multidisciplinary team" in place before this event? Does it take such an event to then review security precautions or does the Hospital wait for an event to then put a team together?   
And why now are "extra security precautions" in place? Shouldn't they have been in place before the incident?  If a hospital with a psych ward is in a residential neighborhood, it would seem that security measures would be in place BEFORE the psych ward was opened and filled with patients.  And psych wards generally have several locked doors before a patient is outside, so how were so many doors unlocked for the patient just to leave?

Todd responded:
In order to address  your concerns and answer your questions, we would like to suggest that we sit down to discuss the event in person. We would be happy to host you, and others who might be concerned, sometime soon. Please let us know when it is convenient to schedule some time and we’ll work on getting this on our calendars. 
Laurelhurst representatives are currently setting up a meeting with Hospital staff and as Todd said neighbors can also set up meetings.

Todd can be reached at and at 206-987-5259.

Please send comments and concerns to the Laurelhurst Blog at and the Blog Staff will compile them to give to Todd to address at the meeting.  The Laurelhurst Blog will report back after the meeting.

Here is a report by KOMO news reported the evening of the stand-off.

And here is the post by the Laurelhurst Blog.



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