The U.S. House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into a patient's escape from psychiatric unit of the Washington DC VA Medical Center Monday.
The chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee requested the medical center provide its policies and procedures for maintaining the safety and security of psychiatric unit patients, citing a report on the escape Thursday by the News-4 I-Team.
In a letter to the medical center director, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) said, "There was a shocking report of a DC VAMC psychiatric patient who escaped from a locked area of the facility, travelled to Virginia and abducted and assaulted a woman, resulting his arrest."
Connolly also announced a formal subcommittee hearing for June into the patient escape and other recent problems identified by the I-Team at the DC VA Medical Center.
The patient escaped a locked unit, traveled to a home in Virginia and abducted and assaulted a woman there, according to police and VA records obtained by the News4 I-Team.
The patient climbed through ceiling tiles above a bathroom shower in the psychiatric unit on the medical center's third floor and then moved through a neighboring office space to make his escape, according to an internal report from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Prince William County police arrested the patient, a 29-year-old Manassas man, early Monday morning — several hours after the escape.
News4 is not identifying the man at this time.
According to police, a woman who is a relative of the man told officers he assaulted her inside a home on Winfield Loop in Manassas.
"The victim further reported that during the encounter, the accused (man) blocked her ability to leave several times," according to the police report. She was eventually able to leave the room.
The victim reported minor injuries, the police report said.
The man is being held without bond. He is facing charges of abduction and domestic assault and battery. A court date is not set.
Multiple sources, including a relative of the man, told the News4 I-Team the man escaped the D.C. VA Medical Center while in his hospital scrubs.
“He went through the emergency room and asked someone in the ER staff to call a taxi cab," the relative said. "They called him a cab. He was wearing hospital clothes.”
An internal VA report said staff discovered broken ceiling tiles on the third floor after his alleged escape. "Video footage has revealed that the patient entered the 3D East patient shower and did not return," the report said. "It is likely they removed part of the ceiling ventilation and climbed through to a neighboring office space in 3D West."
A relative said the man’s family called the VA Medical Center twice to warn them about the escape. The relative said the man called family to notify them he was headed to Virginia. The relative said the Medical Center staff declined to check the man’s room after receiving the warning.
"Washington DC VAMC officials quickly identified the veteran’s location in Prince William County, Va., and asked the Prince William County Police to return him to VA," The DC VA Medical Center said in an email. "Unfortunately, Prince William County Police refused to do so."
The man is being held in a Virginia hospital as he faces felony charges, according to a relative.
“The Washington DC VAMC is conducting a review of its policies and procedures to see if changes are warranted," the DC VA Medical Center said in a statement. "We cannot comment further due to patient privacy laws.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.