Regional News in Review - February 2014

Deaf man is robbed, beaten

Four people are charged in connection with a mid-January incident in which a deaf man was robbed and beaten in downtown St. Paul. The 35-year-old crime victim, who knew his attackers, sustained bruises and a deep laceration to the back of the head.

When St. Paul Police found the bloodied victim on Wabasha Street, he was trying to get help. Officers used pen and paper to learn he had been attacked and had his phone stolen.

Surveillance video was used to see the group of four people assault the man, kicking and punching him. He was also hit with a liquor bottle. His pockets and backpack were searched during the assault.

Police caught all four. They are Tanisha Ann Wilson, 29; Brandon Lee Anderson, also known as Brandon Balterman-Werlich, 23; Michael Dewayne Bordeaux, 22, and Rianot Nikky Nelson, 24, as they tried to board a bus at Fifth and Minnesota streets. The hometowns for all four suspects were unknown, according to the complaints.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s office charged all four with aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery and Bordeaux with second-degree assault. (Source: Pioneer Press)

 


Psychiatrist maltreated patient

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has determined that a state psychiatrist committed emotional maltreatment when he threatened a mentally ill patient at the Minnesota Security Hospital with electroshock therapy. The January decision by DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson overrules the department’s inspector general, who decided last month that the Dr. James Christensen’s threats didn’t merit a finding of maltreatment.

Jesson’s action is significant because it is a response to a rare, formal objection filed against DHS by a state ombudsman whose office advocates on behalf of those with mental illness and developmental disabilities. Jesson was asked to review Inspector General Jerry Kerber’s initial decision to reject the maltreatment finding that was made by his own licensing investigators.

Roberta Opheim, the state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities, is the official who asked Jesson in December to reconsider Kerber’s actions. She told the Star Tribune that she is concerned about the difference in power between a patient and a psychiatrist.

There was another staff member who witnessed the incident, in which Christensen reportedly told the patient, “You should be afraid of me. I am the one who is going to shock your brain with electricity.” That statement is included in a state licensing report.

Christensen has been warned that he will be automatically disqualified from working for the state if he commits any further maltreatment over the next seven years. The actions against Christensen are outlined in the licensing report.

“The reasonable person on the street of St. Paul or St. Peter probably would find a psychiatrist saying—in a raised voice with some anger—that he was going to ‘shock your brain’ to a committed patient to be threatening,” Jesson said in a letter explaining her decision.

“Clearly, this interaction was improper, inconsistent with the manner expected of a professional caregiver. I believe the preponderance of evidence shows the conversation constitutes abuse.”

Christensen has denied making the theat. He is the only full-time psychiatrist at the St. Peter treatment facility. More than 300 of the state’s most dangerous and mentally ill patients are housed there. The facility has been under scrutiny for the past few years. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

 

Autism spending on rise in St. Cloud

Special education spending on autism spectrum disorders in the St. Cloud school district has nearly doubled in the last seven years, according to a report in the St. Cloud Times. During that time period the student body has grown roughly 2 percent. A significant part of the 10 percent increase in special education expenses has fallen under autism spectrum disorders.

The increase mirrors a nationwide increase in the prevalence of autism among children. The rate of students in the St. Cloud school district with autism spectrum disorder as a primary disability, as of last year, was one in 51.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the district had 267 of its 13,717 students with an autism spectrum disorder as a primary disability, said Patty Popp, the district’s director of special education and student services. That’s a significant increase over the 148 students in 2006-2007, or 1 in 90 students.

“It’s not completely out of line with other prevalence studies,” principal investigator Amy Hewitt said of St. Cloud’s numbers. School district leaders are looking at the numbers and deciding how to address the changing trends. (Source: St. Cloud Times)

 

 

Post-concussion issues affect ex-Viking

For seven years following his retirement from the Minnesota Vikings after the 1999 season, LeRoy Hoard battled the pain of knee and shoulder injuries. But the former Pro Bowl running back also was plagued by constant headaches and memory problems. Doctors told him he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome related to all the hits he took playing football.

Hoard, who now lives in Florida, struggled to hold a job in the mortgage loan business and often could do little but rest. The turning point was in November 2006. “I remember it was, like, a Monday,” Hoard told the Pioneer Press. “I was lying in bed, and I didn’t go to work. I took migraine medicine, which makes you a little loopy. And then I hadn’t slept in a couple of days, and I took some Ambien and I got up on a Thursday.” Hoard said the incident “terrified” him. He then learned of another athlete who had committed suicide.

It was a wake-up call for Hoard. He is among a growing number of former NFL players whose post-football lives are changed by curtailed by concussion problems. With help from family and friends, particularly former backfield mate Robert Smith, Hoard, 45, is now dedicated to his young family and working as an analyst on South Florida sports radio station 790 The Ticket. He is also getting help for his past concussive injuries. (Source: Pioneer Press)



Charges in murder at security hospital

In January at Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, Michael Francis Douglas, 41, of Mankato was severely beaten by Darnell Dee Whitefeather, 41. Douglas died while being treated by paramedics from River’s Edge Hospital’s ambulance service. Douglas had been released from prison in 2013 after serving 20 years for beating a man to death during a 1991 Mankato burglary.

Whitefeather was arrested at the hospital and taken to the Nicollet County Jail. He faces murder charges.

Both men were committed to the hospital last year. The security incident casts a light on going problems at the hospital. State Rep. Clark Johnson (R-North Mankato) said while he is saddened by the news, it also points to the need for charges to protect patients and staff at the hospital. “We have to deal with this (facility). We need to get to the bottom of how to address safety at this location,” Johnson said. “There were concerns before the incident. The physical place itself is not safe. There are problems with blind spots in halls.”

Johnson also called for support of Dayton’s bonding proposal of $56 million to reconstruct Security Hospital.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minnesota Department of Health and the state’s ombudsman for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled also will be involved with local law enforcement officials in investigating the incident. (Source: Mankato Free Press)