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Negligent homicide case against four Pueblo hospital security guards dropped

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) — The negligent homicide cases against four hospital security guards at St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo have been dropped. Mathew Jones, a patient at the hospital died inside the lobby.

The four guards, Anthony Virant, Anthony Ruff, Drake Castro, and Randy Vialpando, previously faced negligent homicide charges in the death of Jones in February of 2021.

"It was a form of relief when they were charged because we thought there would be justice," Randy Jones, Mathew's brother said. "We will never fully get closure. We didn't get to say goodbye."

In the motion to dismiss obtained by 13 Investigates, 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner stated "after further investigation, there is insufficient evidence to prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt."

"We wanted it to go to trial. We wanted justice for my brother. We are at a total loss for words. Disappointed in the district attorney's office. I'm speechless," Jones said.

On June 17, 13 Investigates sought comment from the guards as they were appearing in court. Two guards, Anthony Ruff and Randy Vialpando apologized to the Jones family for Mathews' death.

Mathew Jones

Multiple witness statements were included in the 33-page arrest affidavit filed by Pueblo Police in November 2021 when all four guards were charged.

Arrest documents say Jones and the guards were engaged in struggle after Jones refused medical treatment for gout and did not leave the hospital.

In the affidavit, Betty Weber, a nurse at the hospital, told police she went 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."

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.

"The video shows it all," Jones said. "The video shows him minding his own business. They say he was high on drugs, spitting on people, tearing phones off the wall, and the video shows the truth. He was sitting in the lobby minding is own business."

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."

According to the affidavit, 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, Vialpondo 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.

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."

Jones said he believes the testimony from Pueblo Police detectives and nurses on scene that morning would have convicted all four guards.

13 Investigates is working to obtain this surveillance video footage, but it has not been released publicly.

Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner provided no additional comment on dropping the charges.

"This is getting swept under the rug. We wanted the District Attorney to do his job and he didn't," Jones said.

Article Topic Follows: Investigations
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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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