Staying calm: CO saves hostage from inmate during hospital visit

A corrections officer talks down an inmate holding scissors to a nurse's throat


By Shane Warnke, Corrections Officer

My shift on October 12th 2012 began like so many others. 

I reported for duty at a local hospital, was briefed by the shift I was relieving, and my day was underway.  The particular hospital I was at was our contract hospital which is where the majority of our offenders would typically go for common medical treatments. 

Shane Warnke.
Shane Warnke.

This particular day was quite busy, in the sense that we had multiple offenders hospitalized, and I was the O.I.C (Officer in Charge) that day, which meant that I would be required to be present for the escort of any offender who was to leave their room for a medical procedure, as well as provide breaks for my fellow officers. 

At approximately 1910 that evening, a fellow officer and I were about to prepare an offender for escort to a medical procedure when almost simultaneously a nurse rushed into our room in a frantic state requesting assistance a few rooms down the hall.  I immediately responded, following the nurse. 

Once we arrived a few seconds later, the nurse informed me that the patient in the room had nursing assistant in the room with a scissors held to his neck.  Having just completed C.I.T (Crisis Intervention Training) a week to the day prior, I immediately initiated C.I.T., as this training was still fresh in my mind, and had been rehearsed so many times became almost second nature. 

I asked the nurse what the offenders name was, and immediately went to work.  As I was able to peer in the room, I was able to see a staff member’s body lying on the floor wedged behind the door of which was hindering the door from being opened all the way.  As I took a step further into the room I was able to obtain a visual of the patient who was holding a pair of medical grade scissors to the neck of the staff member. 

The patient exclaimed “don’t come any closer or I will stick him!”  At this point the patient’s focus went from the staff member to me.  On two separate occasions the patient made lunges in my direction with the weapon, as I took a step back I began to address the patient by his first name and attempted to establish a dialogue with him.  The patient eventually began to respond to my voice, while I was addressing him by his first name. 

At this point I felt as if I was making progress in communicating with a man who was clearly not in his right mind.  The patient eventually agreed to surrender the weapon, and let the hospital staff member go.  The patient sat down on the bed, and hospital security staff arrived and took over.  After the incident was over, I immediately telephoned my Watch Commander and informed him of the incident.  Approximately 1 hour after the incident, Warden Michelle Smith arrived at the hospital to ensure the safety of all of her staff.

There was a lot that was taken away from this incident.  First and foremost, situations can arise anywhere at any given time.  I have been asked on a few different occasions, was I prepared for an incident such as this?

My immediate answer to this question would be no, because the location of where this happened is non-typical of this sort of situation.  Hospital visits are typically fairly routine, and on all but a few occasions have their ever been any serious issues involving offenders.  When I was a new Correctional Officer in 2005, I would repeatedly run scenarios through my mind covering the very finest details of what my response would if something popped off, the way my radio transmission would be made, etc…

This method worked great for allowing me to become systematic in my response within the prison walls.  The situation at the hospital was a reiteration of the world we live in, as well as the fact that mental illness is a real epidemic within the United States. 

My advice to others is to remain vigilant where ever you are at, and have a plan of action in the event that something happens.  I am very thankful that the situation that I was involved in ended the way that it did.

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