JANUARY 13, 2016
CONTACT: M. Paul Valois, Esquire
7601 Timberlake Road
Lynchburg, VA 24501
SUBJECT: Family of Hospital Shooting Victim Disputes Account of Shooting
On the evening of Sunday, January 10, 2016, Jonathan Warner (age 28) and his family were enjoying dinner at a restaurant in Lynchburg when he began to exhibit symptoms of anxiety. His mother recognized these symptoms as being related to an imbalance in the medication he is prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. Mr. Warner decided to report to the Emergency Room of CENTRA Lynchburg General Hospital and went there with his family in the belief that he would be treated safely and professionally. At no time prior to his arrival at the ER did Mr. Warner exhibit any signs of aggression or anger.
He reported to the ER with his family at approximately 9 pm and spent several hours awaiting evaluation and/or treatment. At approximately midnight, his mother left the ER to attend to her younger children and left her phone and email contact information with CENTRA staff. Before leaving she implored staff at the hospital to closely monitor Mr. Warner and informed staff members of the problems with his medication and his history of anxiety.
As reported to his attorney by officials, after more than seven hours at the ER, and after a discussion ensued about a potential involuntary detention, Mr. Warner became upset and anxious and an incident occurred that resulted in Mr. Warner being shot at least 4 times by a CENTRA security officer. According to officials, Mr. Warner had grabbed and discharged a TASER unit taken from the security officer, but was not armed with a firearm at the time he was shot. There has been no allegation that Mr. Warner fired the TASER at the direction of any person and according to an official who has observed the incident on video, it appeared as though Mr. Warner was “fumbling around” with the TASER and that he “didn't know how to operate it”. Mr. Warner remains in critical condition and his family has been informed that he will likely remain paralyzed for the rest of his life as a result of the shooting, if he survives.
Mr. Warner's mother called the hospital early in the morning of January 11, 2016 but was falsely informed by CENTRA staff that he was no longer a patient at the hospital. CENTRA did not notify her of the shooting – she learned of it through a phone call from a friend more than eight hours after the shooting occurred.
On the evening of July 12, 2016 at approximately 9:15 pm, attorney Paul Valois of James River Legal Associates attempted to visit Mr. Warner at the Intensive Care Unit of the Lynchburg General Hospital, but was denied access by hospital staff on the ground that access was restricted to “immediate family members”, even though (i) he was escorted to the ICU by Mr. Warner's mother, (ii) uniformed officers of the Lynchburg Police Department were granted access to the unit and were positioned next to the door of the room where Mr. Warner was being treated, and (iii) earlier in the day visitors who were not members of his immediately family were granted access to him.
The family is distraught and desperate for answers to the following questions:
1. Why did CENTRA staff ignore Mr. Warner's mother's repeated warnings regarding his medical condition?
2. Why did it take CENTRA staff more than seven hours to evaluate Mr. Warner?
3. Given that CENTRA staff had considered and discussed involuntary detention for his mental health treatment, why did CENTRA staff allow Mr. Warner access to weapons?
4. Why did a CENTRA security guard use lethal force in response to Mr. Warner's alleged use of non-lethal force when Mr. Warner allegedly held only a discharged TASER at the time of the shooting?
5. Why did the CENTRA security guard shoot Mr. Warner four times at close range when he was not armed?
6. Why did CENTRA employees give his mother false information about Mr. Warner's admission status?
7. Why did CENTRA employees deny Mr. Warner access to an attorney, but permit police officers to enter the ICU?
These questions involve grossly and wantonly negligent treatment of a patient who needed prompt care and attention but who instead languished for hours without proper care or treatment. They also involve the application of excessive lethal force in response to what was at most a simple assault.