Police Officer on Leave after Patient Death at Hospital

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A Huntington Police officer is on administrative leave after a mentally challenged patient, who police say was combative, died at a local hospital.

According to a press release from Chief Skip Holbrook, on Saturday, January 11, at 5:56 p.m., Huntington Police were dispatched to the St. Mary's Medical Center to find a mentally challenged patient who had left the hospital, despite a Mental Hygiene Order.

An officer located 66-year-old Annie Earle, of Huntington, along 31st Street.

Earle was transported back to the hospital without incident, according to police.

Once they returned to the hospital, the officer and a nurse escorted Earle to a room. During that time, police say she became increasingly agitated and disruptive, knocking equipment to the ground.

They say she was placed in an exam room for further evaluation.

Hospital staff notified police that the Mental Hygiene Order had been denied by the Mental Hygiene Commissioner and the hospital could not provide additional treatment.

Police say the officer opened the exam room door and told Earle she was free to go and they would provide her a ride home.

At the time, police say Earle became more aggressive and upset, attempting to turn over a computer stand and attached equipment. They also say she was jumping on and off the hospital bed.

According to the release, Earle was non-compliant with the officer and nurses.

Police say the officer went into the room to prevent injury to the patient or others and as the officer got close, Earle hit him in the face, knocking off his glasses and cutting his left ear and left side of the face.

The officer tried handcuffing the patient, but Chief Holbrook says he was unable to do so due to her resistance.

During the struggle, police say the officer and the patient went to the floor, and the officer was able to secure one handcuff on Earle. When he secured the second handcuff, police say Earle became unresponsive.

Immediate efforts to revive the patient were unsuccessful and Earle was pronounced deceased a short time later.

The Huntington Police Department and the FBI have initiated a joint investigation of the in-custody death of Annie Earle. The results of the investigation will be presented to the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office, as well as the Department of Justice, for review.

The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is protocol for matters such as this, according to police.

Tuesday afternoon, St. Mary's Medical Center released a statement, saying, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the woman who died." They say they are not able to many any other comments due to HIPAA regulations and the nature of the incident.

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