Friday, August 5, 2011

Supervisor at Staten Island psychiatric facility indicted for strangling autistic man

From the NY Daily News:

A supervisor at a Staten Island psychiatric facility was indicted Aug. 3 for strangling an autistic patient during a botched effort to subdue him, authorities said.

Jawara Henry, 27, (pictured) died Dec. 4 at the South Beach Psychiatric Center while Erik Stanley was attempting to restrain him.

Henry was agitated and very aggressive and had bitten other patients and at least one staffer, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said.

Stanley, a 37-year-old developmental aide supervisor, told investigators he followed proper procedure, a law enforcement source said.

But medical evidence showed he grabbed Henry in a chokehold while the patient was on his stomach, prosecutors said.

Stanley "did not follow protocol nor use proper techniques while trying to restrain Henry ... and caused Henry's death by using excessive pressure on the patient's neck and torso," Donovan said.

Henry's death was ruled a homicide after the Medical Examiner found he died of asphyxia by neck and chest compression.

No arrest was made at the time of his death, but Donovan's office opened an eight-month investigation that led to Stanley's indictment Wednesday.

"I'm happy that somebody's going to pay for my son's death," said Henry's mother, Sharon Rowe, 52. She said she saw signs prior to Henry's death that he was being abused.

Rowe said the facility's staff always had an excuse when Henry was injured, including once when he suffered a burn to his knee and a cut to his forehead.

"The system really failed Jawara," Henry's stepfather, Courtney Rowe, 50, said through tears. Stanley, of Middletown, N.J., surrendered at the NYPD's 120th Precinct Wednesday morning and was charged with criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disable person, prosecutors said.

Stanley, who had worked at the facility for eight years, was arraigned on the indictment Wednesday and released without bail.

"This is one of the tougher cases," the law enforcement source said. "The guy wasn't trying to do any harm. He was just trying to subdue him - but he should have known better."

The state agency that oversees the facility, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, said it enforces a strict zero-tolerance policy for employees who physically abuse patients.

"OPWDD immediately suspended Erik Stanley without pay," said spokesman Travis Proulx. "We are currently seeking Mr. Stanley's termination, and will unequivocally seek the termination of any employee who is guilty of abuse or neglect of an individual with developmental disabilities."