Police detain subject refusing to leave Monett Elementary

Friday, August 22, 2014

School incident sends man to hospital for mental evaluation

Mental evaluation of a 19-year-old Monett resident was continuing at Cox Hospital North in Springfield on Thursday morning following an incident at Monett Elementary School on Wednesday.

No charges have been filed against the subject but still may be, according to Tim Schweder, Monett police chief.

According to Brad Hanson, Monett school superintendent, the adult white male approached the playground area at the school for an extended period. Both a teacher and an administrator spoke to the subject, who appeared reluctant to leave.

"[The school personnel] became concerned," Hanson said. "There was no direct threat and no danger to our kids. They became aware that there was something wrong with the individual and he did not need to be around our kids."

According to a letter sent home with students on Wednesday from Susie Gasser, Monett Elementary School Principal, the individual never attempted to come onto school grounds.

Police were called and recess was cancelled. School resource officer Jay Jastal, an investigator and another officer arrived on the scene, and subsequently transported the individual to the police station, where two detectives interviewed him.

"The detectives determined the subject was having emotional mental problems," said Lieutenant Greg Brandsma. "They decided it would be best to get him some assistance with mental health resources."

By all indications, the subject acted alone and probably walked to the school. Officers had no previous contact with this subject, Brandsma said. He was cooperative and not hostile with police.

An affidavit was prepared on the situation, signed by Barry County Associate Circuit Judge Robert Foulke, after which the subject was transported to Cox North, which has an in-patient psychiatric hospital.

Schweder said the police department has the authority to have a subject held for 96 hours for evaluation. A judge's signature provides more weight to the request.

The school district has indefinitely banned the subject from school premises and activities. The subject has been informed of the ban, Brandsma said.

In the letter sent home to students, Gasser wrote, "Once the individual was taken into custody, regular school routines resumed. We will continue to communicate with the police department to ensure student safety.

"We would ask you to have a heightened awareness of your child's safety as they walk to and from school, at the bus stops, and on the weekends. [On Thursday] classroom teachers will be reviewing safety procedures as a part of our already planned Positive Behavior Support boot camp week."

Brandsma said the officers did well in investigating the incident.

"The officers did an excellent job," he said. "We appreciate having the school resource officer available like we did. His connections with the school keep us aware of their concerns.

"When you deal with people who have some emotional issues, it's not the norm. You must take into account what odd things they are experiencing as we encounter them."

The subject could be released by the hospital without giving notice to police.

"If a patient has been charged by law enforcement or warrants issued for their arrest, we notify that agency about that patient's discharge," said Yvette Williams, director of corporate communications for CoxHealth. "Federal HIPAA patient privacy rules prohibit us from notifying law enforcement about a patient's discharge if no warrants are issued or no charges filed. If charges are filed, the subject would return to police custody.

"We want to support efforts of area police departments to make communities safe. Patients are not released from our in-patient psychiatric facility if they are an imminent danger to themselves or others. All patients leave our facility with an after-care plan that is individualized for that patient that outlines the next steps in their care. That could include prescriptions for medications and appointments to mental health services available in the community. It's important to get them connected to the right services and medications to see that they are improving and on the right path."

Williams added that CoxHealth provides police agencies with special mental health training so officers can recognize triggers they might see in the field reflecting mental illness and can then respond accordingly.

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