Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Nightshift

It was a normal day at the Liberty State Hospital, which is to say it was constant chaos and insanity. I was working in the admissions office, receiving patients from law enforcement officers. My job was to verify who the patients were, conduct a short interview to see if they were going to attack me, and then take vital signs. This went pretty smooth usually, many times because of my promise to take the patient outside to smoke.

This night was fairly calm compared to some. The resident psychiatrist on call was perhaps the oldest psychiatric resident in the world; but he was nice, did his job quickly, and always ordered pizza for the staff. I received a call from a mental health deputy from Liberty County who we saw on a regular basis. “I’m bringing in a patient; we will be there in 15 minutes.”

I asked him, “Has he been screened by a county mental health worker?”

“No,” he replied, “He has been holding his family hostage with a shotgun for 24 hours.”

What the hell? “Why don’t you take him to jail?” The deputy informed me that he was a fellow deputy who had been shooting up speed for three days, and just needs to go into rehab.

Any police officer can commit any person for a 24 hour period, as long as the doctor on duty agrees. So, the door buzzes and I push a button and in comes four Liberty County deputies and a very disheveled, glazed eyed man that looked like he had not slept in weeks. The patient was 6’4 and around 240 pounds, outweighing me by about 100. As a former deputy, he was granted immunity by his “brother” deputies and brought to us. For a county that never met a law they didn’t love, these laws did not apply to the police, they were above it. Apparently bringing me a violent, psychotic, meth filled trained killer was no big deal. As with everything else, it’s all about who you know.

After their arrival, all four of the accompanying deputies went straight back to our area to get coffee, leaving the psycho deputy alone in our waiting room, which was not designed to hold patients who wanted to get out. But, his buddies removed his handcuffs and took a coffee break.

Ring ring. “Yes doctor.” “I ordered a pizza, should be here in ten minutes.” So, I leave the safety of our office and stand in the waiting room, waiting for pizza and hopefully dissuading this guy from running away.

The door buzzes. I walk to the door, keeping this guy in my peripheral vision. As soon as I open it, I see him running like mad toward the door. Knocking the pizza guy on his back, he makes his escape.

We did not have to chase escaping patients, but, being used to physical altercations at this job and being 26 years old, and because I believed this guy to be very dangerous, I ran out the door. I catch him in about five steps, grab his waist, and take him to the ground.

People with severe mental problems can exhibit almost super human strength, and people with mental problems who are on meth are a whole other issue. As soon as I tackled him, he threw me up from a lying position and slammed me on my back. I got up, and he got up.

He said, “Don’t mess with me boy!”

Unfortunately, no one else had seen his escape, so the cavalry was not coming out to help me. He takes one step and hits me in my temple, causing my glasses to fly ten feet. He then takes off running and stumbling. I jog behind him to see where he is going. Over the fence he goes.

As I begin my walk back to admissions, I see a car coming straight at me. I see it is a DPS Trooper. Well, better late than never.

The trooper opens his door, gets behind it, and points his gun at me. “Hands up, get on the ground now!!” I put my hands up. I then replied “I am not the escapee, I work here, and if you look over there, you can see the mental patient lumbering down the street. I’ve already been on the ground twice; I guess you can shoot me if you want.” Not the smartest thing to say, and my long hair and goatee did look a little crazy. He looked at my ID badge around my neck and got into his cruiser and sped toward the psycho cop….

As for me, I start walking back to our office in admissions. When I get there, I find about twelve law enforcement officers. After making and writing various incident reports, the trooper who almost shot me came in with the crazy cop. He was a nice guy, and apologized sincerely for his drawing a weapon on me. But, there was still work to be done. I took the remorseful cop's vital signs as he wept and said how sorry he was for running away. We then walked him to his unit, accompanied by five law enforcement officers.

On returning to the office, my co-worker advised me to sue the pants off of Liberty County. I guess I should have, but at that time it was just another day on the job.

just another day on the job


S. Stone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. Stone said...

Great story!