Four Pueblo hospital security guards charged in connection with a patient’s death
PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Four security guards at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo have been charged with negligent homicide in the death of a man in February 2021.
Court records obtained by 13 Investigates say Anthony Virant, Randy Vialpando, Anthony Ruff, and Drake Castro were all charged with negligent homicide for the death of Mathew Haskel Jones on November 17, 2021. In Colorado, negligent homicide is a class-five felony.
In a press release on May 7, 2021, the Pueblo Police Department said Jones arrived at St. Mary-Corwin on February 10, 2021.
According to police in the initial release, Jones had been "involved in a physical altercation with hospital security staff prior to the arrival of Pueblo police officers."
Jones was taken to a Colorado Springs hospital after the disturbance. He died a little over a week later on February 18, 2021.
On February 24, 2021, the El Paso County Coroner's Office ruled Jones' cause of death a homicide.
The court documents refer to the coroner's report that states Jones died from, "anoxic brain injury due to cardiopulmonary arrest during physical restraint in the setting of morbid obesity, methamphetamine, and probably cocaine intoxication, and cardiomegaly with cardiac fibrosis."
In the 33-page arrest affidavit, investigators detail what happened the morning of February 10, 2021.
What the guards say
According to the affidavit, Vialpando told police Jones had been discharged from the emergency room against medical advice. Vialpando said he tried negotiating with Jones and tried to convince him to leave. Hospital staff tried calling his wife, then his mother who told staff to get a taxi for Jones.
Castro told police he tried getting a cab from City Cab and rides from various family members of Jones'. He said nurses let Jones use the phone, but Castro said he ended up "ripping the phone cord out of the wall."
At that point, Vialpando says he tried to get Jones to leave, but Jones refused and told security officers that he wasn't going anywhere. Vialpando says he spoke with Jones' mother again and they tried coming up with a plan to get Jones home, however, they ultimately couldn't find a ride.
Vialpando told police he assisted other security officers in attempting to move Jones from the hospital by force. All four guards say Jones was resisting their attempts to force him to leave the hospital. That's when police records say Jones fell to the ground.
In an interview with detectives, Vialpando told police they tried getting Jones onto his stomach, and he grabbed his left arm. According to Vialpando, Jones was spitting at security guards while on the ground. Vialpando says he maintained control of Jones' left arm until he became unresponsive. That's when Vialpondo said medical aid was administered to Jones.
During that incident, Virant told police he pressed his chest to Jones' back "in an attempt to hold Mathew in place and control him from moving," he also said he was trying to prevent Jones from coming face to face with security guards.
In the affidavit, Virant told police he could feel Jones continue to struggle and tense up and he continued the pressure on Jones' back until he noticed Jones wasn't resisting anymore. Virant said, "he then noticed Mathew was becoming unresponsive."
Castro told officers he secured Jones' lower legs after he fell to the ground. Shortly after, Castro said Jones became unresponsive.
In the affidavit, Ruff stated that when Jones fell to the floor, he was yelling to "let him up." Ruff said he "maintained control of Mathew's right arm until Mathew became unconscious."
What surveillance camera reveals
The Pueblo Police Department then received a search warrant for video from inside the hospital. Court documents say the security officers were seen talking with Jones for 18 minutes on tape. After reviewing the footage, the affidavit says, "at no point before 6:24 A.M. on the video footage does it appear that Mathew confronts, assaults, or threatens anyone."
The court documents go on to say, "It appears Mathew is trying to resist the security officers' efforts of pushing him toward the door. At one point, Mathew extends one leg and puts it on the door to the ER entrance. At this time, Mathew falls to the ground, and the security officers go to the ground with Mathew. While Mathew is on the ground on his back one of the security guards (Anthony Virant) put his hands against Mathew's throat area. Another officer (Drake Castro) lays across both of Mathew's legs, one security officer (Randy Vialpando) attempts to control Mathew's arms and the other security officer (Anthony Ruff) has his hand on Mathew's back."
The affidavit says Jones rolled onto his stomach, however, it's unsure if he rolled over or if guards moved him. Police wrote that Virant is seen in video placing his left forearm on the back of Jones' neck area. Castro is seen continuing to lie on Jones' legs, Vialpondo is controlling Jones' left arm, and Ruff has his hands on Jones' back. This happens at 6:25 a.m, according to surveillance video.
At 6:26 a.m., a St. Mary Corwin employee named Betty Weber approaches. She walks away, then arrives again and hooks Jomes up to a blood pressure monitor at 6:28 a.m.
What witnesses told police
In court records, investigators say they interviewed multiple St. Mary-Corwin employees, including Weber, in the days and months after the incident both in person and by phone.
On June 1, Detective Ryan Torres, who also wrote the affidavit, spoke with Janice Martinez. She is an admissions representative for St. Mary Corwin Hospital, owned by Centura Health.
Martinez told Torres that Jones was complaining that they gave him something and they were trying to kill him. When Jones was insistent on leaving, Martinez said he "ripped the phone out of the wall" when he was on the phone with City Cab attempting to get a ride from the hospital.
Martinez said that three of the security guards "were the most seasoned officers she has ever worked with." She went on to say that they are the gentlest people. Two were retired sheriff's deputies, and one was a guard for the Department of Corrections. She recalled that the fourth guard was new and had been training in the days leading up to the incident.
Detective Torres says that Martinez told him Jones started to smack his face and started to spit blood. Then, she said he started to spit on the security guards.
After speaking with Martinez, court records indicate Torres spoke with another nurse Jessica Gomez. Gomez corroborated many details related to Jones' behavior. Specifically, him refusing medical attention, pulling the phone from the wall, and attempting to call City Cab to leave the hospital.
However, records say Gomez did not witness Jones' interaction with the guards. Torres then spoke with Webber, the nurse who approached the guards with a blood pressure machine.
In the affidavit, Webber told police she goes to the front of the ER and hears Jones saying he can't breathe. Webber told police she remembers thinking, "okay this has been too long."
At that point, Webber told police she went over to the security guards and says, "Hey this looks a lot like the George Floyd incident, and we all know how that turned out."
How the hospital responded
Centura Health issued a statement to 13 Investigates regarding Jones' death.
Protecting patient and associate privacy is a value deeply rooted in our organization and as such, and due to privacy laws, we are not able to comment further on the circumstances surrounding this event. We have, and will continue to, cooperate with local authorities in this matter.Centura spokesperson
However, on March 19, 2021, Detective Torres received several emails from Michael Watts, an attorney from Mullen & Moore, who indicated he was representing Centura Health in this matter.
In a number of attachments pursuant to the Production of Records search warrant for St. Mary-Corwin Hospital, Detective Torres said he received a notarized letter signed by Glen Griesheim indicating that, "the HR investigation file would not be turned over because it was privileged by the attorney-client privilege and the Fifth Amendment. He further indicated that he would not be turning over the 'Internal communications regarding the underlying incident because they are protected by the attorney-client privilege, the Fifth Amendment privilege, the Hospital Quality Management privilege contained in C.R.S. 25-3-109, and the Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act."
Detective Torres states in the affidavit he was also served with a document signed by Attorney Michael Watts on March 25, 2021, explaining why Centura Health and St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center would not be providing materials that were ordered in a search warrant as well as records and recordings ordered.
The affidavit states the document was titled "Response to the Order for Production of Records and Motion for Extension of Time to Comply."
13 Investigates reached out to all four attorneys for the security guards. We have not yet heard back at the time of publication.