• October 19, 2018

Questions surround MCH shooting - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

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Questions surround MCH shooting

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Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2018 6:05 pm

Questions remained unanswered Tuesday after a federal prisoner died in U.S. Marshals Service custody Monday as a result of a shooting at Medical Center Hospital.

“From what I understand there were two personnel up there that was guarding the inmate (at the hospital),” Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said. The Ector County Sheriff’s Office was not involved.

The shooting happened at about 4:13 p.m. Monday in the central tower of MCH involving the patient in custody, a Medical Center Health System news release stated.

“Law enforcement immediately took control of the situation and the threat was removed,” MCHS Spokesperson Rhonda Lewallen said via text Monday.

The prisoner died more than an hour later at about 5:58 p.m., a U.S. Marshals Service news release stated. No MCHS employees were involved or harmed during the incident and there were no injuries to law enforcement personnel.

After the shooting, Griffis said his office was requested to assist in guarding the inmate so he sent two of his personnel. They were only there for about an hour to an hour and a half, he said.

“They stood with the inmate until he was deceased,” Griffis said.

Brent Sheets, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Western District of Texas, said Tuesday he could not give an update on the incident. A news release from the agency Monday stated the name of the prisoner would not be released until next of kin had been identified.

“While the incident is under investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service is not able to make a statement at this time,” the release stated. “Texas Rangers will investigate the incident.”

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Sgt. Oscar Villarreal said Tuesday all he could confirm is that the Rangers are assisting in the investigation.

Griffis said he himself has questions about the shooting.

“I’m wondering what happened and what could have prevented it,” he said.

The sheriff said unless an inmate is of a high classification or may be an escape risk, they are only required to send one jailer to escort an inmate to the hospital. Federal inmates require two escorts at all times any time they are outside of a secure facility, he said.

The prisoner who died Monday as a result of the shooting had not been booked into the Ector County Law Enforcement Center, Griffis said, adding that the man was in the federal lockup facility at the Ector County Courthouse that is run by the GEO Group.

Ector County Hospital District Police Chief Brad Timmons said Tuesday he could not discuss the shooting incident Monday, but was able to discuss protocol for when an inmate is brought to the hospital.

“All inmates are handled basically the same way,” Timmons said.

Whether it’s an inmate from the county jail or a federal inmate, the officer bringing the inmate in is given a packet that includes the department’s policies and emergency responses and then they go on their way, he said.

“The law enforcement agency that has them in custody is responsible for their care, custody and control,” Timmons said.

The hospital district’s officers will then make rounds to make sure everything is OK or to see if they need anything. Timmons said he could not comment as to whether or not any of his officers were present during the shooting Monday.

“I can’t get into the situation,” he said.

Officers aren’t trained for handling inmate patients, aside from going over procedures during orientation of a new officer, but all of the hospital district’s officers go through an official active shooter training course and are certified, he said. Hospital employees and staff are also trained and do active shooter drills, Lewallen said.

“The drills and the training are so important because people, once they get that really ingrained within them, whenever a real situation occurs you automatically (respond),” she said.

“It’s almost muscle memory,” Timmons added. “I can’t tell you this specific situation, but I can tell you in any situation, it’s 100 percent. It kicks in with staff and our officers — and that’s in any situation, not this specific situation.”

There was reportedly a heavy police presence as a result of the shooting Monday. Timmons said sometimes in certain circumstances other law enforcement just show up.

“Here in Odessa we’re very blessed to have a very tight law enforcement community and we help one another constantly. It’s almost an – if they overhear something, they’ll just self respond,” he said, adding they do the same thing.

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