Sheriff's Dept: Hospital Patient Shot By Deputy Forced Way Into Room

Police car on the street

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A patient who was shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy inside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center used a piece of steel medical equipment to shatter a fourth-floor hospital window then smashed his way into a room where an injured deputy was recovering, sheriff's officials said today.

Sheriff's Lt. Derrick Alfred said two deputies from the South Los Angeles station were inside the room on Oct. 6 guarding the injured deputy, and the man -- who was suffering from a psychiatric episode -- lunged at one of them while holding the steel object above his head.

“The deputy stepped into the threshold to prevent the male patient from entering the room,'' Alfred said. “She repeatedly told the male patient to put the object down. The male patient was still holding the metal device above his head, lunged forward toward the deputy, and a deputy-involved shooting occurred.''

The deputy fired a total of nine shots at the man, hitting him seven times in the upper body, Alfred said. The man, described only as 34 years old, remains in critical condition.

Alfred said the confrontation began around 11 p.m. when the two deputies were guarding their injured colleague and heard “loud banging and screams.'' One of the deputies walked down the hall to investigate, and saw the male patient a few doors down, using the medical equipment in an effort to “smash the fourth-floor window out.'' The deputy told the other patients and hospital staffers in the room to leave the area.

“An announcement was broadcast over the hospital public address system to summon medical staff who specialize in these situations,'' Alfred said. “After learning help was on the way, the deputy returned to the room with the injured deputy and her partner and resumed her security detail.''

It was a few moments later that the male patient began hitting the door to the injured deputy's room, smashing out the safety glass and forcing the door open, culminating in the shooting, he said.

The shooting remains under internal review.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva defended the deputy's actions, saying she was “about a second or two away from getting beaned in the head'' with the object being wielded by the patient. He said the deputy couldn't wait for a hospital mental-health team to respond.

“I'm not sure how long you want her to wait for people to gather together on the first floor of the hospital and get a plan together and go up to the fourth floor to intervene,'' he said. “No. I wouldn't expect anybody to wait under those circumstances.''

Villanueva used the discussion about the shooting to again lash out at the county Board of Supervisors over budget cuts to his department and criticize calls by a community group for deputies to be pulled out of hospitals. He noted that the deputies involved in the shooting were not the assigned hospital security team, but were on a separate detail guarding the wounded deputy.

He said the two deputies were assigned to guard their colleague so the deputies assigned to security duties could remain at their post near the entrance and emergency room, where they were needed.

The hospital issued a statement Tuesday confirming that the deputy who fired was not a member of the hospital-based sheriff's unit, but providing security for the private room patient.

“Last week, a tragic event occurred at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center when a patient experiencing a psychiatric crisis was shot and critically injured by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy from the South Los Angeles Station. The deputy is not a member of the Harbor-UCLA-based sheriff's unit and was on-site to provide security services for another hospitalized patient who was in an adjacent room,'' said the center's acting CEO and CMO Dr. Anish Mahajan. “ Multiple investigations are underway within and outside the hospital about how and why this incident occurred.''

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said Tuesday he would be introducing a motion calling on the Office of Inspector General to investigate, while the hospital is looking at how to best manage security services.

“Our patients deserve to know that when they enter the doors of our hospital, their care and safety is our highest and only priority,'' Mahajan said.

Ridley-Thomas' motion will be considered at the board's next meeting.

Photo: Getty Images

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