Lawmaker demands action after Taser attacks on disabled patients

August 2, 2012 9:01:27 PM PDT
St. Sen. Mark Leno is demanding action after developmentally disabled patients were Tasered at the Sonoma Developmental Center. The senator says center should have handed over the investigation to an outside law enforcement agency. This comes after ABC7 News and media partner California Watch broke the story earlier this week.

Leno's bill would require the in-house police department at the Sonoma Developmental Center and the other four homes in the state to report all serious crimes to outside police or sheriffs agencies. Currently, there is no requirement for them to do that.

"Let's just make it the law," Leno, D-San Francisco, said. "You must contact law enforcement, local law enforcement. It's your responsibility to investigate an alleged crime."

Leno says the Taser case is a perfect example of why an outside law enforcement agency should have been the one investigating the crime and not the Office of Protective Services, the centers' in-house police agency.

"We need to have some conequences and we need to have some justice if we're going to prevent dangerous acts from happening in the future," he said.

The agency has come under fire in recent years for reportedly conducting lax investigations into mysterious injuries and even deaths at Sonoma and the other developmental centers.

Last September, the director of the center received a message on his answering machine. The anonymous caller said someone had a stun gun and was using it on patients.

The man was identified as psychiatric technician assistant Archie Millora. He worked at the center nearly 14 years.

Documents from the investigation reveal that officers confronted Millora the day after the phone call. They found the Taser in his car and a loaded Glock semi-automatic pistol plus a separate magazine with live rounds. Millora was placed on administrative leave but was never arrested.

A subsequent independent probe by the California Department of Public Health reveals that nurses examined and photographed patients in his care. They found suspicious abrasions on "the buttocks, thigh, arm and back" of 12 people. A forensic pathologist concluded that the marks were "strongly suggestive of electrical thermal burns," consistent with a Taser.

All of the reported victims have extreme difficulty communicating, but when questioned, one of them uttered the words "stun" and Millora's name which the incident report identified as "Staff A.".

Millora was eventually fired.

ABC7 News tried to talk to Millora but he did not respond to requests for an interview.

Court records show in April, Millora pleaded no contest to misdemeanor possession of a loaded firearm. He got probation and a $190 fine in lieu of jail time.

But Millora was never charged with the reported stun gun assaults -- charges that if convicted, could have given him serious prison time.

It may never be known why because ABC7 News' requests for interviews with officials from the Sonoma Developmental Center and the OPS were denied.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office told ABC7 News,"We offered to assist in their investigation but we were told they didn't need our help."

During a recent three year period, there were more than 250 confirmed abuse cases and over 600 other unexplained injuries among the roughly 2,000 patients at the five state-run developmental centers.

Rarely has violence against the residents led to arrest or prosecution.

In the Taser case, the Office of Protective Services decided to handle it as an administrative matter. The district attorney says they only went after Millora on the gun charge because the OPS never referred the Taser assaults for criminal prosecution.

The district attorney's office says it is now reviewing the Taser case after having received new information.

Assm. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, has called for an audit of the Office of Protective Services. He says that audit should be completed later this year.


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