The patient, a 31-year-old man, has since returned to the psychiatric facility in Lakewood, Pierce County.
Police are investigating the escape of a Western State Hospital patient from the state’s largest psychiatric facility, in Lakewood, Pierce County.
The patient, a 31-year-old man, was caught and returned to the facility, Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler said in a statement. He was missing for less than 1 ½ hours Monday afternoon.
Police said it appears the man “snuck away” while walking with a group of other patients to a fenced, outside area, while being escorted by two staff members, Lawler said. According to a statement from the Department of Social and Health, authorities believe he left through an unlocked door.
The patient, who is considered a threat to himself and others, arrived to Western State’s on March 1 for a 180-day, court-ordered commitment out of Cowlitz County, Lawler said. He is housed in the civil ward and considered disabled. He was actively supervised by state corrections officials, Lawler added.
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Staff members realized he was missing when they got to their destination, shortly before 1:45 p.m. Police received a call about the escape around 2:21 p.m., Lawler said.
Hospital security officers first searched the area, reporting that the patient had been spotted near the Steilacoom Library, which is less than a mile from the hospital, Lawler said.
Authorities eventually found him on Dupont-Steilacoom Road, where they took him into custody at 3:05 p.m. without problems, Lawler said.
The incident comes five weeks after two patients apparently climbed out a first-story window at the hospital, prompting a statewide chase that lasted days. During that manhunt, two other patients took “unescorted leaves,” officials said.
Those escapes intensified federal scrutiny on Western State, and also drew concern from Gov. Jay Inslee about the way the hospital is being run.
Federal regulators were already investigating a recent attack on a worker and a patient-on-patient sexual assault.
Hundreds of employees at the facility have been assaulted by patients, which has led to millions in medical costs and thousands of missed days of work, according to The Associated Press.
In 2011, a 26-year-old man who called himself “the son of Satan” and believed he could kill at random also walked away from the facility. He was captured a day later.
In 2009, a 33-year-old patient left the hospital and vanished for two hours before Western State employees spotted him. He was apprehended by Lakewood police without incident.