Unruly, Mentally Challenged Patient Dies in Police Custody at Hospital

From Press Release
Unruly, Mentally Challenged Patient Dies in Police Custody at Hospital
On Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at approximately 5:56 p.m., officers were dispatched to the area of St. Mary Medical Center to attempt to locate a mentally challenged patient and were advised that the patient had left against medical advice under a Mental Hygiene Order.


At approximately 6:06 p.m., an officer located the patient at the O’Reilly Auto Parts lot on 31st Street. The patient was transported back to the hospital by the officer without incident.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the officer and a nurse escorted the patient back to an ER examination room. While escorting the mentally challenged patient to the exam room, she became increasingly agitated and disruptive, knocking equipment to the ground. The patient was placed in the examination room for further evaluation. Moments later, hospital staff advised the officer that a Mental Hygiene Order for the patient had been denied by the Mental Hygiene Commissioner, and the hospital could not provide additional treatment.

At that time, the officer opened the exam room and advised the patient that the hospital was done treating her and HPD would be willing to provide transportation home. The already agitated patient became more upset and aggressive, attempting to overturn a computer stand and attached equipment, as well as jumping on and off the hospital bed.

The patient was repeatedly noncompliant with the officer and nurses’ requests for her to calm down and not damage equipment. After ignoring the officer and nurses’ requests and her continued attempts to overturn the computer equipment, the officer moved into the room to prevent injury to the patient or others.

As the officer got close to the patient, she struck him in the face, knocking off his glasses and causing a laceration to his left ear and abrasion to the left side of his face. The officer immediately initiated handcuffing the patient, but was unable to do so due to her resistance.

During the struggle, both the officer and the patient went to the floor. Once on the floor, while the patient was on her back, the officer was able to secure one handcuff. The officer repositioned the patient on her stomach and secured the second handcuff. At that moment the patient became unresponsive.

The officer requested immediate medical assistance from hospital staff. Efforts to revive the patient were unsuccessful and she was pronounced deceased a short time later.

The deceased has been identified as Annie Earle, 66 years old, residing at 1012 4th Ave., Huntington.

The Huntington Police Department and the FBI have initiated a joint investigation of the in-custody death of Annie Earle. The results of the investigation will be presented to the Cabell County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the Department of Justice, for review.

As per protocol on matters such as this, the officer involved has been placed on administrative leave for a period to be determined by the Chief of Police.
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