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Two of the four Pueblo hospital security guards charged with negligent homicide apologize for man’s death

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Friday, three of the four hospital security guards appeared in court. After their motion hearings, 13 Investigates heard from two of the guards who apologized to the family of the man who died.

Anthony Ruff, Randy Vialpando, Drake Castro, and Anthony Virant are all charged with negligent homicide in the February 2021 death of Mathew Jones at St. Mary Corwin Hospital.

While leaving court, Ruff and Vialpando apologized to the Jones family when confronted by 13 Investigates. Castro said he had "no comment" regarding the case.

Virant was not present during the motions hearing Friday.

(Left to Right) Anthony Virant, Randy Vialpando, Drake Castro, and Anthony Ruff

During the motions hearing, the attorneys for the guards expressed an interest in filing motions to suppress the testimony of witnesses, specifically Betty Webber's testimony, court documents say. According to affidavits, Webber was a nurse who went up to the guards to provide medical assistance to Jones. While doing so, she told police she compared the situation to what happened to George Floyd.

Judge Allison Ernst did not rule on any motions Friday.

She gave the attorneys until July 22 to file the written motions. All four guards will be back in court in late October.


Court documents obtained by 13 Investigates gave more insight into what led up to Jones' death.

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 the 33-page arrest affidavit, investigators detail what happened the morning of February 10, 2021.

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 Vialpando 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."

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 the video placing his left forearm on the back of Jones' neck area. Castro is seen continuing to lie on Jones' legs, Vialpando is controlling Jones' left arm, and Ruff has his hands on Jones' back. This happens at 6:25 a.m, according to the surveillance video.

At 6:26 a.m., a St. Mary Corwin employee named Betty Weber approaches. She walks away, then arrives again and hooks Jones up to a blood pressure monitor at 6:28 a.m.

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 Jessica Gomez, another nurse. Gomez corroborated many details related to Jones' behavior. Specifically, how he refused medical attention, pulled the phone from the wall, and attempted 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."

Centura Health issued the following 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 several attachments under 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.

Friday, Centura issued this statement to 13 Investigates about the search warrants:

"Centura is not refusing to respond to subpoenas, in fact, we are only asking the judge to understand the information requested is confidential and privileged quality review information (under both State and Federal law) and any use of the information in this case should be in the context of this confidentiality and privilege."

Centura Spokesperson
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Sean Rice

Sean is a reporter based out of Pueblo for KRDO. Learn more about him here.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. The woman who said it looks like gf (not worth mentioning that losers name), is delusional… stop trying to make druggies out to be martyrs. I am so tired of the society we have that stands up and protects druggies who don’t take care of themselves then wonder why they die when stressed. This man was obese, he had multiple drugs in his system, refused to leave a place when told, multiple times, then fought with security when they tried to remove him. Maybe his momma should have done a better job raising him.

    1. Read Dopesick or Dreamland, the pharmaceutical companies sold doctors (who should have known better) on the idea that opiods were not addictive and they wound up prescribing them to 1 in 3 adults. Floyd was one of those, he was first given these drugs by an MD. Then the feds cracked down on that and the illegal market exploded because they had addicts pre-made for them. I don’t know if this is the case here, I have no idea why the person was trying to leave and yet didn’t seem to be willing to leave, it’s very confusing.

      https://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-than-one-third-americans-prescribed-opioids-in-2015/

    2. Very well put. Dude was hopped up and was going to have a cardiac event just going to the bathroom. I don’t think the security guards have any liability in this situation. It would be like suing a firefighter because when they got to a car crash the person who crashed their car died.

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