Laguna Honda Security Still Questioned
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 16, 2004
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA--Concern continues to grow for the safety of residents at Laguna Honda Hospital, following reports that a patient with multiple sclerosis was sexually assaulted by a visitor earlier this month.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, 50-year-old Julio Mestre has been charged with sexual battery on an incapacitated person and causing pain, suffering and injury to a dependent adult.
Police claim that Mestre went into the room of the woman, who cannot speak, and began molesting her under her bed sheets on July 1. He reportedly left the room after a roommate screamed for help.
Henry Farr, a friend of the 37-year-old alleged victim, told the Examiner that he reported the incident to officers after hearing the details from the roommate later that day. Farr said he was outraged that a security officer had not been called to the room, and that a supervisor told him officials had instead decided to file an internal report on the incident.
"They didn't do anything to protect her . . . I think that's criminal," Farr said. "If I didn't report it and waited for Laguna Honda to report it, they never would have caught him."
When Mestre returned to the woman's room on July 2, he was arrested by institutional officers who are part of the Sheriff's Department. The case was sent to the San Francisco Police Department to be investigated.
But San Francisco Police had to drop the charges and release Mestre a few days later because the Sheriff's Department had failed to send a report about the incident in a timely manner. Police were finally able to issue a $150,000 warrant for Mestre's arrest on July 13. He surrendered to police on July 14.
Hospital officials said there was no reason to believe the incident occurred because of a lack of security at the facility.
With 1,200 beds, Laguna Honda Hospital is the largest publicly-owned nursing home in the United States. There has been much criticism lately over the city's decision to transfer younger and potentially dangerous patients from San Francisco General Hospital. Many of the patients, some of which are considered violent, are under age 60 and have mental illnesses or chemical addictions.
In May, two members of a local street gang came into the nursing home and assaulted an older resident. They had been called in by 25-year-old resident Sebaz Glenn who was angry that the man had changed the television station. Police later found marijuana on Glenn.
Charges have not been filed against Glenn or his gang associates.
Glenn was removed from the facility, but a paperwork mix-up by nursing home staff meant that he could return at any time. Glenn, who became paralyzed after trying to escape police during a car chase earlier this year, has reportedly chosen to get an apartment elsewhere and an in-home care provider.
The 135-year-old Laguna Honda is the oldest nursing home in California. The city-run facility has been the target of federal investigations, class-action lawsuits and protests by disability rights advocates because of the city's failure to provide community-based services for residents who want to live in their own homes.
"Sex assault the latest charge at Laguna Honda" (San Francisco Examiner)
"Snafu delayed Laguna Honda molest case" (San Francisco Examiner)
"Laguna Honda Hospital -- Largest Nursing Home In US" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)