In-custody death of Calif. mental patient under investigation

Brandon Coates, 29, was described as an 'especially assaultive and aggressive client'

By Rachel Raskin
Vallejo Times Herald

VALLEJO, Calif. — A Napa State Hospital patient died while under police restraint Tuesday morning, a Napa Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said. It's the second major incident there since January, a local legislator's spokesman said.

The death of Brandon Coates, 29, described as an "especially assaultive and aggressive client," comes less than two years after two high profile deaths there sparked protests over safety.

"We got a call around 11 a.m. about a death at the hospital," Napa Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Tracey Stuart said. "(Coates) had become agitated and was put into isolation to wait for the police to come and help the nurses administer a shot to calm him down."

This was accomplished without incident, Stuart said.

"The nurses left and the police officers were leaving, when he jumped off the bed and attacked them," she said. "They wrestled him into handcuffs, and he was kneeling on the floor near the bed, handcuffed, when he stopped breathing."

Medical personnel performed CPR, but Coates was declared dead at the scene, she said.

An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death, Stuart said.

Hospital workers have complained that over the years, more patients at state mental hospitals are criminally insane as opposed to suffering less dangerous mental illnesses. They say facilities and procedures have not kept up with this change, creating a dangerous environment for residents and employees.

Last October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a hospital safety bill by Assemblymember Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, that addressed this issue by streamlining the process by which patients deemed incompetent to stand trial are provided involuntary treatment. It kicks in July 1. Allen's office spokesman Sean MacNeil said it's unclear if this law would have helped in Tuesday's case, but that safety issues still plague state mental facilities.

Copyright 2012 The Times-Herald

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