The escaped inmate turned off the light in the tiny windowless hospital room, and then for 3½ hours he held a handgun to the nurse’s head, “torturing” her and saying she would leave one way: in a body bag.
Meanwhile, the Kane County sheriff’s officer assigned to guard the inmate had ducked into another room possibly to hide, said an attorney for two nurses who were held hostage at Delnor Hospital in Geneva on May 13.
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“I represent employees who just came to work that day to do their job,” said the attorney, Sean Murray, speaking to reporters at his downtown office Thursday. “And they left traumatized for life.”
The federal lawsuit filed by the nurses marked the first public indication of the severity of the injuries suffered by either of them. A statement from the Kane County state’s attorney on the Monday after the standoff indicated only that one hostage required “immediate medical attention” and noted there are “many questions to be answered.”
Lt. Pat Gengler, a spokesman for the Kane County sheriff’s department, told Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg that officials simply didn’t know everything at the time he addressed reporters.
“Some of these things we didn’t have,” Gengler said. “We don’t always have everything. You don’t always have information at hand.”
The lawsuit alleges that the rotating Kane County sheriff’s officers guarding 22-year-old Tywon M. Salters, of Chicago, watched TV, napped, talked on their personal cellphones and repeatedly unshackled Salters so that he could use the bathroom. It was while he was unshackled that Salters wrestled a 9mm gun from one of the guards, identified as Shawn Loomis, Murray said.
That set off a chain of events that led to Salters taking the hostages, before being shot dead by a SWAT Team at the hospital. Loomis is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He could not be reached for comment.
“The conduct that led to this occurrence is unacceptable,” Murray said. “Those who led to this happening need to be held accountable. Policies and procedures must be reviewed and they must be changed.”
The Kane County sheriff’s department declined to comment on the specific allegations of negligence.
The suit also targets the company that provided security for the hospital, alleging, among other things, it “violated its duty by failing to ensure that proper procedures were being followed.” The security company could not be reached for comment.
Salters was booked into the Kane County Jail on March 11, charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, officials have said. Paramedics brought him to Delnor on May 8, after he ate part of one of his jail-issued plastic sandals. The plastic was removed and he remained at the hospital to recover.
But Salters had been at the hospital previously, on May 7, when he intentionally drank hydrogen peroxide, Murray told reporters. At Delnor that day, he was “combative” and “had to be restrained,” according to the lawsuit.
“By history, [Salters] was known to the Kane County officials to be a career felony offender,” Murray said. “He was on suicide watch. On two separate occasions, he had harmed himself to get out of jail.”
That behavior should have triggered some “heightened protocol,” Murray said.
While at the hospital on May 8, several guards were assigned in rotation to watch over Salters, but they repeatedly failed to do so adequately, Murray said.
“A guard was found sleeping on a couch while guarding Mr. Salters; guards were repeatedly observed using their personal cellphones, using their laptops or watching TV,” Murray said.
And Salters was “being unshackled whenever he complained he had to use the restroom,” Murray said.
On the afternoon of May 13, while unshackled, Salters wrestled the gun from the guard, Murray said. The guard fled, Murray said.
“He ran down the hallway into another hospital room and possibly hid behind a hospital bed,” Murray said. “We know that guard made a phone call. But our investigation has shown that beyond that phone call, there was no other action taken on his behalf to help the hospital staff and the hospital nurses who were walking the hallways at the time.”
Salters, naked and armed, then went into a nurse’s office, where he took one nurse hostage, holding a gun to her head. When a second nurse came into the room, he released the first, Murray said.
Salters then took the second nurse to a “decontamination room” on another floor. He turned off the light and kept the second nurse hostage for 3½ hours, Murray said.
“He held a gun to her head the entire time,” Murray said. “She was tortured. She was repeatedly beaten with a gun in the back of her head. She was told she was going to die. She was going to leave in a body bag. He said he was going to shoot his way out. . . . She was also raped.”
About three hours after the ordeal began, the Kane County SWAT team shot Salters to death, officials said at the time. The same bullet that hit Salters also punctured the nurse’s arm, Murray said.
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The nurses, who were not at the press conference, have yet to return to work.
The officer who was on duty when Salters escaped was hired in 1999 and is currently on paid administrative leave, Gengler said.