Choking babies saved by nurses from suspect

Two nurses, a respiratory therapist and a hospital security officer saved two babies from being choked to death at Odessa Regional Medical Center Monday night, according to an Odessa Police Department arrest affidavit.

The affidavit details that Marcus McCowan Jr., 18, was at ORMC Monday evening because his girlfriend was in labor and he began acting oddly around 6:30 p.m.

Registered Nurse Taylor Frandenburg told police McCowan came into the nurses station in the Labor and Delivery area, grabbed her arm and made an unintelligible statement and the charge nurse made him leave. McCowan was then seen running back and forth in the hallway, which they thought was “odd and unreasonable.”

A short time later, McCowan ran at “full speed” at Registered Nurse Haley Sanchez, Registered Nurse Kassandra Reyes and a mom who was being released from the hospital and holding a newborn baby in a carrier. He was screaming and yelling and he shoved Sanchez while trying to get into the nursery, causing her to hit a wall with her shoulder and fall to the ground, according to the report.

The nurses told police they saw McCowan try to get the baby out of the carrier and when he was unable to, he began to strangle the baby with both hands, causing the baby’s skin color to change. Sanchez and Reyes were able to separate the baby from McCowan’s grip after ending up in the lactation room, the report said.

Martha Fuentes, a respiratory therapist, heard the yelling, came to the nursery and chased after him when he ran into the nursery, an area not accessible to the public, the report stated.

Fuentes saw McCowan reach into the bed of a newborn baby and begin to strangle her, according to the report. As the baby’s face and lips changed color, McCowan picked the baby up from the neck, shake her and tell her to “die.”

Fuentes told police McCowan appeared as though he was going to throw the baby to the ground, but she placed her hand on the back of the baby’s head and slowly escorted McCowan toward the ground “to reduce the possibility of (the baby) falling,” the report stated. The baby was turning purple when Security Officer Lori Tavarez arrived and together they were able to get the baby away from McCowan.

When police arrived, they got McCowan into handcuffs despite the fact he was struggling and they found a THC vape pen on him, according to the report. During the search, the officers reported McCowan tried to get a corporal’s gun from his belt.

As they were in an elevator getting ready to leave the hospital, McCowan tried again to get the same officer’s gun, the report stated.

Online Ector County jail records indicate McCowan is facing the following charges: two counts of attempted capital murder, possession of a controlled substance, attempt to take a weapon from an officer, assault of a public service, resisting arrest, criminal trespass and assault. Records show McCowan has a San Angelo address.

Josephine C. Martin, vice president of communications for Steward Health Care, released a single statement when asked for an interview.

“The police responded to an incident at Odessa Regional Medical Center last night. In accordance with HIPAA regulations, we are unable to comment on any patient’s specific circumstances.”

When asked about security protocols and security staffing levels at the hospital, Martin said she wasn’t familiar with them, but would ask ORMC President Stacey Brown for details. She later released the following statement:

“The safety of our patients and staff is our highest priority and we are in compliance with all regulatory security requirements. We are conducting a thorough review of the incident and remain committed to serving the needs of this community. We want to thank our staff for their tireless work on behalf of patients.”

Two months ago, Odessa Regional Medical Center announced it had been recognized by Healthgrades as a 2022 recipient of their distinguished Obstetrics and Gynecology Excellence Award and Labor and Delivery Excellence Award. This distinction places Odessa Regional Medical Center among the top 5% of hospitals evaluated for overall Ob-Gyn care by Healthgrades, as well as the top 5% of hospitals evaluated for labor and delivery outcomes.

“We constantly strive to provide the highest quality care to our patients throughout every stage of life,” Brown said. “In every step of the delivery process, our Women’s Care Team works to bring the highest quality to our patients and their newborn children.”