SOUTH SALT LAKE — South Salt Lake police said Tuesday the department was changing its policy immediately regarding prisoners who are taken to the hospital for treatment, after an inmate was left unsupervised at University Hospital and escaped.
The alleged violent criminal was rearrested early Tuesday.
"We're not going to point fingers. We have no one to blame but ourselves," said South Salt Lake Police Capt. Tracy Tingey. "He's our prisoner. He's our responsibility. Thank God we got him back. But we're not willing to take that chance again. We're not going to play the blame game. We're not going to risk public safety."
On Sunday, officers had arrested a 30-year-old suspect after a man apparently went on a drug-induced rampage, robbing two women at knifepoint, carjacking a Jeep, then holding a family hostage before leaping out of a window of their apartment.
After the suspect's arrest, he was taken to University Hospital and placed in intensive care with leather padded restraints on his arms and legs. For years, Tingey said, there had always been an understanding between the hospitals and the police department that when a prisoner was about to be moved out of ICU or when the restraints were going to be taken off, that an officer be notified.
But Tingey said police were not notified when at 9:15 p.m. Sunday the man was moved out of ICU and his restraints were taken off. The man immediately got up and walked out of the hospital.
The man was spotted by university police still wearing his hospital gown at the University TRAX station about 10 p.m. They called the hospital, where workers said the man left against medical advice but there was nothing they could do about it, Tingey said.
About noon Monday, the delusional man showed up at the Salt Lake City Police Department still wearing his hospital gown. He believed he had been arrested by that department and wanted his personal items back, Tingey said.
The department called the hospital and did a background check on the man. But because the new charges had not been filed yet, Salt Lake City police did not know the man was an escaped prisoner, Tingey said. The man's mother ended up picking him up from the police station.
At 3:30 p.m. Monday the hospital called South Salt Lake police to tell them their prisoner was gone. Tingey said teams consisting of South Salt Lake police, Salt Lake City police, the Metro Gang Unit and the FBI were formed to find him.
About 1 a.m. Tuesday, after the man's mother saw the news coverage of her son, she contacted police and told them she had dropped him off at his sister's house near 900 West and 800 North.
This time, the man was taken straight to jail for investigation of a variety of charges including carjacking, burglary and kidnapping.
Tingey said it's the job of the hospitals to treat patients, not act as law enforcement in addition. He did not place blame on the hospital. Although the policy of contacting police has worked in the past, Tingey said effective immediately the department would leave an officer with a violent prisoner at all times when they're receiving medical attention.