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Veterans Affairs police caused fatal stroke by beating patient 'tired of waiting'

Published time: May 27, 2014 18:22
Veterans Affairs police logo

Veterans Affairs police logo

A veteran died of a stroke after Veterans Affairs police beat him because he refused to wait any longer for treatment at a VA hospital in California. Now his widow is suing the government over the brutality that led to his death.

Jonathan Montano had been at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Loma Linda, Calif. for four hours with a shunt (a needle apparatus) in his arm, awaiting dialysis. Tired of biding his time, he decided to head to a different VA hospital in Long Beach, and asked his wife Norma to get the car. But instead of allowing the patient to leave - with the shunt still in his arm so the Long Beach staff wouldn’t have to insert a new one - Loma Linda nurses called VA police, who beat him to keep him from leaving, Courthouse News Service reported, citing the lawsuit by Norma Montano.

"The summoned VA Police Department police officers then stopped Jonathan Montano from leaving the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, by tackling him to the floor, slamming his head on the floor, and kneeing and stomping on his neck, and otherwise brutalizing and restraining him,” the lawsuit said.

"This kneeing and stomping on his neck by the VA Police Department police officers caused the dissection of his carotid artery, that resulted in immediate (or very soon thereafter) blood clotting, which resulted in [his] suffering a stroke. Moreover, the brutalization of Jonathan Montano resulted in him suffering other serious physical injuries, and associated physical, mental and emotional pain, suffering and distress."

Norma, who had been waiting in the car for her husband, went inside after he did not leave the hospital. There, she was told Jonathan had suffered a stroke and was in the emergency department. Upon arriving in the ER, a doctor told her Jonathan “had fallen down and suffered a stroke, an untrue statement," she says in the complaint.

But later on, a nurse pulled Norma aside and told her what had really happened: that police had thrown her husband to the ground, that hospital staff were lying to her and that it wasn’t right what the VA cops had done, CNS reported.

The incident occurred on May 25, 2011, and Jonathan died of complications from the stroke two-and-a-half weeks later, on June 11. He was 65. The couple had been married for 44 years.

Norma and the couple’s son and daughter are suing the United States in federal court. They are seeking punitive and other damages for wrongful death, false imprisonment, constitutional violations, negligence, loss of consortium and intentional infliction of emotional distress, CNS said.

The suit comes at the same time the VA is under fire for the so-called “Veterangate” scandal. Earlier in May, a Veterans Affairs (VA) employee alleged that at least 40 patients died waiting for an appointment at a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. Several whistleblowers told reporters that, in an effort to salvage their own reputation, VA administrators mandated that thousands of patients’ names be moved to an unofficial waiting list. If those veterans died, the whistleblowers claimed, the names would simply be removed from the list quietly.

An agency report linked 23 deaths in multiple states to delayed treatment. Congress is investigating the agency, and many politicians have called for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation. President Barack Obama defended Shinseki last Wednesday. He has also asked deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors to examine the allegations. An inspector general has also been assigned to look into the scandal.

Norma Montano’s lawsuit is different than the VA scandal, since she claims police brutality - not improper care - caused her husband’s death, but it could be seen as another instance of systemic problems throughout the agency dating back to the second term of President George W. Bush. Briefing documents obtained by the Washington Times through a Freedom of Information Act request state that inspector general audits dating back to 2005 uncovered problems. Nine recommendations total were given, but none were incorporated by the time Bush left office.

Comments (19)


Caroline Nguyen 03.06.2014 14:12

Law Enforcement Malpractice Insurance should be THE LAW.


Kathy Meadows 31.05.2014 05:54

Michael Paul, how was that man "doing it wrong'? you shouldnt be forced to stay in a facility that cant help you. he had every right to leave and go to another facility. i do totally agree that the va rent a cops went to far and they need to be held accountable for their actions. i hope they get tagged for it and soon and i hope the widow gets a lot of money from them. sometimes its hitting them in the pocket book is best


Wilson Boozer 30.05.2014 21:36

I go to the Veterans Hospital for medical care, not only because it is available for me, but also because they have more experience in treating old men's problems than anyone else. I have always been satisfied with the treatment that I have received. But this is a different matter. The VA Police beat up a sixty-five year old veteran with a heart problem, and he died. Where is the outrage among Congress people? Why weren't they prosecuted? Why wasn't whoever is in charge of this group fired?

View all comments (19)
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