Five years ago, the unthinkable happened at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva.
A Kane County jail inmate, hospitalized after surgery, disarmed the jail officer guarding him and took a nurse hostage. He held her at gunpoint in a small room for several hours, raping and torturing her, before a SWAT team burst in and killed him.
In the years that followed, the sheriff’s office enacted “a litany” of changes aimed at correcting the missteps that made that shocking crime possible that day.
The first of these, the sheriff’s office now sends only one guard to monitor a hospitalized inmate, Sheriff Ron Hain told us recently.
“Inmates should always be escorted and monitored in the hospital by at least two corrections officers,” said Hain, who was not a sheriff in 2017.
His office also demands “strict adherence” to a policy that hospitalized inmates remain handcuffed at all times unless medical staff request that they be removed.
That was not the case on May 13, 2017, when inmate Tywon Salters was hospitalized after surgery to remove pieces of a plastic sandal he had swallowed.
When Salters asked to be released to use the bathroom, the guard agreed to do so. He then allowed the 21-year-old Salters to use the bathroom alone and did not put it back when he returned. A nurse noticed it and asked the guard why, but got no response, according to a federal lawsuit later filed against the county, Delnor, the prison guard and the prison’s security contractor. hospital.
According to Hain, Salters spent “abnormal” time in the bathroom while alone and uncuffed. He used this time to make a rod – a homemade knife – which he later used to threaten the officer before taking his gun.
Salters’ ability to disarm the guard led to further changes in the sheriff’s office.
Hain said prison guards have never received “structured” training in self-defense or tactics beyond a qualifying firearms test once a year. So in 2019, he created a Sheriff’s Tactical Training Unit to teach all sworn members of his staff — including prison guards — tactical and self-defense skills.
It also equipped prison officers in 2019 with stun guns.
These, and other changes to the prison, have reduced use of force incidents and injuries to staff, he said.
Hain said the sheriff’s office also meets regularly with hospital administrators and security officers to discuss security issues.
“We have developed a great relationship with security and administration at Delnor,” he said.
Christopher King, director of media relations for Northwestern Medicine, said the 2017 attack “reminded us of the significant consequences of workplace violence.”
He said Northwestern has implemented several system-wide initiatives, including installing wireless patient monitoring cameras with two-way communication capability to deal with potentially disruptive patients.
King said the hospital system holds annual meetings with prison, detention center and prison staff, and added workers who specialize in de-escalating disruptive behavior.
“Our staff have shown remarkable resilience and we will continually review and update our policies and procedures to ensure that an event like Delnor’s does not happen again,” King said.
The federal lawsuit of four nurses alleged negligence by the county and the prison guard led to the assault that day. The lawsuit alleged that Salters – who they say was suicidal and desperate – was only guarded by one officer at a time, and the nurses saw the guards using their personal cell phones and laptops while seated. on recliners and on the sofa in his hospital room.
The lawsuit also alleged that after the escape, the guard hid in another room and did nothing to alert or protect hospital staff.
The prison warden was dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit, but in December 2018 the county council approved a $7.9 million settlement with the nurses, who sued as Jane Does, and have never been publicly identified.
The law firm representing them declined to comment.
In July 2020, the county council approved a $97,000 workers’ compensation settlement with the prison guard, who later resigned.