(12-20-16) WUSA Reporter Peggy Fox set out yesterday to discover why a man in apparent mental stress was fatally shot on the hospital grounds where he had been taken by police for evaluation. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to learn anything more than I was when I raised questions in my blog about the death. The hospital said it couldn’t comment because of HIPAA laws while Commonwealth Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said there was little anyone could do because persons with mental illnesses have “rights” and can’t be held for treatment in a hospital without posing an “imminent danger” to themselves or others.
For the record, there was no indication in a report that Morrogh released last Friday that Yovani Amaya Gomez ever refused treatment, a rejection that surely would have been noted in his medical file. After the mass shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, the words “imminent danger” were dropped from Virginia’s criteria for involuntary treatment. The current criteria is that an individual can be temporarily held if there is a:
“Substantial likelihood that (a) person will in the near future • Cause serious physical harm to self or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm and other relevant information, if any; or • Suffer serious harm due to lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs § 37.2-808(A)
I served on an advisory panel that helped draft that language and it was loosened specifically to give medical personnel more leeway.
The point of my blog was not to challenge Morrogh’s conclusion that Deputy Sheriff P. McPartlin was justified in fatally wounding Gomez. Rather, I asked why detectives had not delved deeper into what happened shortly before the shooting when Gomez was in the emergency room at Fairfax Inova Hospital. Answers to a list of questions that I posed might have been helpful in preventing future shootings. You can watch Peggy Fox’s report here. Or continue reading her transcript.
Here is a transcript of her report.