Nurses Sue Over Hostage, Rape Incident at Illinois Hospital

Alicia Ault

June 08, 2017

Four nurses are suing a corrections officer, the county he works for, and the company that provides security for a hospital in Illinois after a prison inmate escaped while being treated, causing mayhem — including raping a nurse —  before being shot and killed by police.

The incident occurred on May 13 at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois, a 159-bed acute-care facility that is an affiliate of Northwestern Medicine, a venture of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. On that day, 21-year-old prisoner Tywon Salters was allegedly unshackled by Kane County corrections officer Shawn Loomis so Salters could use the bathroom. Salters then wrested away Loomis' handgun and took two nurses hostage — eventually raping one — while Loomis allegedly ran away and hid in another hospital room.

"What we're largely concerned with is this never should have happened. There never should have been that opportunity," said the Chicago-based attorney for the nurses, Sean Murray, during a May 25 briefing with reporters. "I'd like to know why the officer went in the other room and closed the door, and didn't take any further action to subdue the gunman, and I think all of those questions need to be answered before we get to anything else," said Murray, according to a report by CBS Chicago.

Loomis, Kane County, and Apex 3 LLC, the security company, are all named as defendants in the suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The lawsuit alleges that the parties acted in such a way as to violate the civil rights of the plaintiffs, who are remaining unnamed.

The first four plaintiffs were the two nurses — identified as Nurse Jane Doe I and Nurse Jane Doe II — taken hostage and their husbands. Two more nurses were added at the end of May — Jane Doe III, who was present in the room when Salters was unshackled initially, and Jane Doe IV, who was present in the room where Loomis was allegedly hiding.

Repeat Visitor

Salters had a history of incarceration and self-injury. He was most recently in the Kane County Jail for possession of a stolen vehicle. On May 7, he intentionally ingested hydrogen peroxide. He was treated at Delnor's emergency room but had to be restrained, and was taken back to jail where he was placed on suicide watch, according to Murray.

On May 8, Salters intentionally ate a jail-issued flip-flop. He was taken back to Delnor, where he underwent surgery. Salters was guarded during his recovery, but the suit alleges that an officer from Kane County's sheriff's office was found sleeping on the couch during his duty. That officer was replaced.

The suit alleges other security protocol violations, including that Salters was freely using the hospital phone and that the sheriff's guards were distracted by their own cell phones and laptops.

Finally, on May 13, Loomis removed Salters' shackles, allowing him to use the bathroom. Salters requested that the restraints stay off in case he needed to go again. One nurse who came into the room questioned why Salters was unrestrained, but Loomis allegedly did nothing. The prisoner was then able to steal Loomis' gun, and Loomis allegedly ran away and locked himself in a room while Salters had free rein in the hospital.

Nurse May Have Saved Others

Salters, who was naked, ran to a nursing office, taking one nurse hostage. He demanded her clothes. Soon, another nurse came into the room. Salters let the first nurse go and took the second hostage.

Nurse Jane Doe II convinced Salters to let her call staff to alert them to the situation — that he was armed and that they would be coming to the first floor to get out of the building. Hospital staff evacuated, but as Salters tried to leave, he saw the SWAT team in position and instead took Nurse II into a small room where he then held her in total darkness for the next 4 hours.

Initially, the press reported that none of the nurses had been harmed during the hostage-taking but that was incorrect. Murray held a press briefing in part to debunk the idea, and said in a statement emailed to Medscape Medical News that he'd been asked to file suit "so this type of thing doesn't happen to anyone else, and so that hospital staff can feel safe returning to work."

Murray gave some details of Nurse II's ordeal, but she also shared her story in a phone interview with Zubin Damania, MD, a video blogger at his ZDoggMD site. As Dr Damania told it, Nurse II was working even though it was her day off because the hospital was short-staffed.

When she walked in on the initial hostage situation, she attempted to talk Salters out of continuing with his plan. "What followed was four hours of horrible, horrible, horrible suffering and misery," said Dr Damania. Salters pistol-whipped the nurse any time she cried and told her they were both leaving in body bags.

He took her phone and Skyped a female relative, who begged him to spare the nurse, but also asked the nurse to promise that Salters would not be killed. Both Nurse II and the police attempted to negotiate with Salters, who thought he was being promised a getaway car. When it was apparent that wasn't happening, he angrily told Nurse II that someone would pay and then raped her, according to Dr Damania.

The SWAT team eventually burst into the room shooting. A bullet grazed the nurse's arm and hit Salters in the head, killing him.

Nurse II said her first thought was that she had not kept the promise to protect Salters from death, said Dr Damania. "This is a superhuman woman," he said. "Like so many frontline nurses and doctors and caregivers and staff that cares about other people to the exclusion of herself." 

Christopher N. King, director of media relations and communications for Northwestern Medicine, also cited the bravery exhibited during the incident.

"The safety of our staff and patients is our highest priority. The professionalism and bravery demonstrated by our staff during the May 13 incident likely saved many lives. We are now focused on supporting our employees, implementing procedures to prevent this from happening again and caring for the patients who trust us for their care," King said in a statement emailed to Medscape Medical News.

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