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Decatur patient attacks security guards with their own pepper spray, police say

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Mar 4, 2019

DECATUR — A Decatur hospital patient was arrested after police said he seized pepper spray from a security guard and used it to attack guards and other staff while fighting with them.

A sworn affidavit from Decatur police said so much pepper spray was released that it hampered the work of the emergency room at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital on Thursday afternoon. “The entire incident disrupted HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital ER function as the exposure of the … spray displaced patients and staff trying to work in the ER,” said officer Ryan Wicks in the affidavit.

The trouble began after the 23-year-old patient was involuntarily admitted to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. Staff told Wicks the man got out of his bed at 2:15 p.m. and tried to leave without being discharged. He was engaged by male security guards and was able to “force both of them to the ground,” injuring one guard and fighting off the attempts of other staff to restrain him.

Wicks, who watched the struggle on surveillance tape, said the man could have tried to flee at that point but instead grabbed the can of pepper spray from one guard’s belt and began spraying the other guard and hospital staff.

“He then approached (a guard, who was still on the ground)… before discharging the spray to the side of his face,” Wicks added.

Wicks said both guards had red, streaming eyes and noses and persistent coughing from the effects of the spray, and the officer said he could see several other staff members coughing with irritated eyes.

Wicks said the man stuck around to spray the guards while they were “defenseless” and trying to recover. One guard also suffered several bleeding wounds and bruising, according to Wicks.

The man was booked on preliminary charges of aggravated battery and disorderly conduct. Preliminary charges are subject to review by the state attorney’s office. The man remained held in the Macon County Jail on Monday night in lieu of posting $30,000 bond.

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