By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A Havre police officer was injured Saturday morning while restraining a man who had escaped from the behavioral health unit of Northern Montana Hospital, Police Chief Mike Barthel said.
The man had been taken there by Hill County sheriff's deputies after he threatened to kill himself, the Sheriff's Office said.
Police Capt. Stan Martin and another officer responded to a call from the hospital at 9:42 a.m. about a 27-year-old male who was causing problems, Barthel said.
The man was able to escape a secure area in the behavioral health unit by running past a hospital employee who had opened a door, Barthel said Tuesday.
When the officers arrived, hospital staff members had the man cornered in the emergency room. Martin's right thumb was dislocated while he and the other officer restrained the man, Barthel said. The man was returned to the behavioral health unit.
Martin's injury required a cast. He has been placed on paid sick leave, Barthel said, and could be out for six weeks.
Martin may be back in the police station sooner than that to do office work, but that decision will not be made until after his next visit to the doctor.
"In law enforcement, we consider that a serious injury because that would be his strong hand or weapon hand," Barthel said.
Barthel said the incident does not suggest that security needs to be improved in the hospital unit. He said he is aware of past incidents in which patients escaped, but is not aware of any other recent cases.
Hospital administrator Dave Henry would not comment on the incident, but said patients have escaped from the behavioral health unit in the past.
"It's a secure unit, it's locked," Henry said. "But obviously if someone's adamant about getting out, they can. It has happened in the past."
Hospital spokeswoman Kathie Newell said the man is no longer listed as a patient at the hospital.
Newell said the hospital contracts with a company to provide security after-hours. Hospital staffers have the ability to page for security during daytime hours, and personnel trained to handle such situations will respond, she said.
"Security assitance is available at all times," Newell said. "There are plenty of people who are trained and willing to show up if needed."
Newell said she did not know the specific details of the incident on Saturday and did not know if such a call had been made.
The man was taken to the NMH emergency room after deputies and officers responded to a 911 call from his residence southeast of Havre at 4:18 a.m. Saturday, Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said.
According to a sheriff's report, the man said people in a black Porsche had been watching him for hours with binoculars and driving back and forth along the road. He said the people intended to kill him. He told the dispatcher that he had a .40-caliber pistol and would shoot anyone who came into his residence.
The dispatcher advised the responding deputy that the man was very confused and "hyper," the report said. The man called 911 three times. During the third call he said he had the pistol pointed at his head, the report said.
The deputy requested that the dispatcher tell the man to put down the gun and come outside unarmed. The man did as he was told and was taken into custody. Subsequently, an officer located the pistol, which was confiscated.
The man was taken to the emergency room and admitted to the behavioral health unit after being examined by a physician, the report said.
Barthel and Szudera both said their departments transport individuals to the emergency room for various reasons. It is up to a physician to decide if a person should be admitted to the behavioral health unit.