Capture of man heightens scrutiny of psychiatric hospital

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The capture of a man found hiding under debris in the woods after he escaped from a psychiatric hospital where he was held because he was found too mentally ill to face murder charges comes amid heightened scrutiny of the facility.

Anthony Garver, 28, was apprehended without incident Friday night in Spokane. Garver was taken into custody by law enforcement in the city, Washington State Patrol spokesman Todd Bartolac said. Garver escaped from the Western State Hospital on Wednesday after he crawled out a window of a locked, lower-security unit with another patient, Mark Alexander Adams, 58, who was caught the next day.

The escapes intensified federal scrutiny on the hospital, Washington’s largest psychiatric facility. Western State had already been under investigation for attacks on patients and staff and a failure to improve safety.

Garver was charged in 2013 with tying a 20-year-old woman to her bed with electrical cords, stabbing her 24 times in the chest and slashing her throat, prosecutors said.

He had been moved to a lower-security unit of the hospital after a judge said mental health treatment to prepare him to face criminal charges was not working and ordered him held as a danger to himself or others. Garver has a history of running from law enforcement, and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich had strong works for state officials about the fact that he was able to make another run for it.

“The state of Washington needs to get a clue,” the sheriff said. “This cannot happen again.”

On Friday, the hospital revealed another patient was missing. That patient, who authorities did not consider an immediate danger to the public, has not been found since failing to return from a group outing the same day the other two men escaped. The hospital did not identify the patient. The incidents did not appear related.

U.S. regulators already were investigating a recent violent attack on a hospital worker and a patient-on-patient sexual assault at Western State Hospital. A workplace inspection released this week found a series of missteps that posed safety risks, including unlocked rooms, unattended items that could be used as weapons and workers who abandoned their posts instead of watching patients.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has repeatedly cited the facility over safety concerns and threatened to cut millions in federal funding. An agency spokesman says the hospital is under additional scrutiny over the escapes and recent assaults.

Garver, who bought a bus ticket from Seattle to Spokane after he escaped, had last been seen on Thursday in the Spokane area where his parents live after his father called authorities to report his son had stopped by briefly. Authorities used SWAT teams, dogs and helicopters to search for him.

Knezovich said two police officers tracked Garver with the help of a police dog and found him about 8:15 p.m. in trees above the home of his parents. Garver was hungry and dehydrated and receiving medical treatment before being transferred to jail, the sheriff said.

Mark Alexander Adams, who escaped with Garver, had been charged with domestic assault in 2014. Like Garver, he was found too mentally ill to stand trial and a judge ordered him held at the hospital.

State officials would not explain why Garver, an ex-felon with a history of running from authorities, was kept in a lower-security area. Some high-security units require patient checks every 15 minutes, but Garver was not placed in one, staffers say.

“He was in a locked area with locked windows and hourly checks,” said Kathy Spears, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the state’s mental health care.

The history of violence at the facility stretches back years. Hundreds of employees have suffered concussions, fractures and cuts in assaults by patients, resulting in $6 million in workers’ compensation claims between 2013 and 2015. Patients also have attacked other patients, causing serious injuries.

Most recently, a patient with a history of violent behavior choked and punched a mental health technician on March 26, according to an internal report. A March 23 report said a male patient slipped out of his monitors and was found in a bathroom with another male patient, who said he was sexually assaulted.

The hospital faces new scrutiny after the two attacks and escapes, said Steven Chickering, associate regional administrator of a division of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In addition, the hospital’s safety and emergency management manager sent a memo to staff Thursday citing numerous violations observed during a recent review.

Some of the problems involved how the hospital is laid out, “but they also observed actions by staff that could pose a safety and/or security risk,” Pamela Rieta’s memo said.

Her team saw a patient wearing a long necklace, telephones with long cords, an unattended chair and other items that could be used as weapons left at the nurse’s station, the memo said.

Cabinets and lockers in activity rooms and kitchen areas were unlocked and unattended. Patients returning from ground privileges were not scanned for contraband. Several kitchen doors were propped open without staffers present, allowing patients to enter, the memo said.

The team also saw staff leave their posts “to hang out and talk … not observing the patients.”

___

Associated Press writer Lisa Baumann contributed from Seattle.

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