A1 A1
Local
centerpiece
Gregg jailers admitted to watching movies while on duty during inmate's escape

Some Gregg County jailers watched movies in a control room the night in December an inmate escaped from the facility.

As a result, nine jail employees resigned Jan. 7 after being warned that they would either be fired or they could leave voluntarily, according to a previous interview with Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano and documents provided in response to a public information request from the News-Journal. Those documents show nine other jailers were suspended without pay for one to three days, one jailer retired and six supervisors received written reprimands.

Jace Martin Laws, 34, of Gladewater escaped undetected Dec. 23 and was gone for 57 hours before another law enforcement agency told the sheriff’s office that Laws might have escaped. Laws, who had been sentenced to prison for assaulting two Longview police officers, was recaptured Dec. 27. Days later, on Jan. 2, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for the escape, in addition to the 40 years he’d already received assaulting the officers. He soon after was transferred to a state prison.

In January, Cerliano said the differences in how jailers were disciplined for the “systematic failure” that allowed Laws to escape depended on their responsibilities and what they were actually doing when he escaped.

The documents the News-Journal received indicate that some jailers assigned to certain shifts on the seventh floor of the jail would watch movies while on duty.

The documents say that jail Lt. Tony Monsivais learned on Dec. 26 that Laws had “carved through the brick tiles in his cell and was able to access the infrastructure of the jail. Laws then gained access to the ventilation system and accessed the rooftop where he was able to escape down the east side of the building.”

A video received through the public information request shows Laws after he dropped from the roof, hiding on the awning over a door to the courthouse where the South Jail is located. The video was recorded coincidentally by a sheriff’s patrol car when a deputy drove up and went inside. Laws, who was wearing a white T-shirt and shorts, waits and watches for minutes before dropping to the ground, walking and then jogging down the sidewalk, away from the courthouse.

“Subsequent investigation into the escape showed that numerous jail staff disregarded policy while conducting headcount, feeding inmates and conducting floor walks,” the documents say. “Also, during the investigation, Lieutenant Monsivais was made aware that numerous jail staff members were watching movies in the 7th floor control room.”

The nine Gregg County jailers who resigned were: Danny S. Adams, Tyler Foster, Alexander Harrell, Erica Ortiz, Jason Schalik, Michelle Sholar, Joshua Smith, Cody Stanley and Samuel Tarrance.

The documents show nine other jailers were suspended without pay for one to three days for infractions that included violating head count or feeding procedures or not reporting discrepancies in head counts: Carl Adams, Dana DiMambro, Kurt Hill, Sirena Howeth, Hilario Peralta, Dustie Richie, Ryan Rimlinger, Celso Martinez and Debbie White. Jailer Thomas Jones retired.

Movies

Foster worked Dec. 23, the night Laws escaped, on the South Jail’s seventh floor, according to a report made as part of the investigation the sheriff’s office conducted into the escape.

“While on the 7th floor on Monday, December 23rd, 2019, Officer Foster watched videos in the 7th floor control room throughout the night by plugging in and using his portable hard drive. Officer Foster watched approximately two and a half to three hours worth of video content spaced throughout the night,” the report says. “During the first rotation, at approximately 20:25 officers in the control room watched approximately one and a half hours of videos before lockdown.

“During the second rotation at approximately 23:30 officers in the control room watched approximately one hour of videos. During the third rotation, at approximately 03:30 officers in the control room watched approximately 30 to 45 minutes of video before beginning feeding procedures on the 7th floor. “

Foster said that on Dec. 24, he didn’t watch videos but listened to Christmas music with his flash drive.

Jailers watched movies on other shifts as well, according to Tarrance’s report.

“On 12/25/19 to 12/26/19 Officer Samuel Tarrance was assigned to 7th floor south jail for the night. While we were not conducting walks or putting someone in rec, we were all in the picket watching movies on the computer,” Tarrance wrote. “We watched ‘Jingle all the Way,’ ‘Space Balls’ “ and a movie identified in the report as “Waterbody” but that likely is “The Waterboy” with Adam Sandler.

“We stopped watching the movies at approx. 05:15 on the morning of the 26th.”

By about 8 a.m. that morning, sheriff’s office staff had received a call that Laws was spotted in White Oak, according to the reports from the jail office.

Monsivais, South Jail administrator, took Sgt. Donald Whitehead, South Jail supervisor, with him to Laws’ cell on the seventh floor, labeled 7Dayroom4.

“Lt. Monsivais began searching every cell in the dayroom to ensure that there was an inmate in every cell by visually looking in and making face to face contact with each inmate,” a report said. “Upon arriving to F Cell, Lt. Monsivais observed that the lights in the cell were somewhat covered but still had adequate light to see what appeared to be a body lying in the bed with a blanket covering the entire body. Lt. Monsivais then entered the cell and told the inmate to wake up. After giving the inmate two verbal commands to get up in a stern and loud voice Lt. Monsivais noticed that there was no movement.

“Lt. Monsivais at that time kicked the side of the brick wall under the bed area and began to pull the blanket off so that visual contact could be made of the inmate. At this time Lt. Monsivais noticed that there was not a body under the blanket rather than clothing and bedding stuffed under the blanket to make it look like someone was sleeping with the blanket covering them.

“Lt. Monsivais then looked around the cell and noticed that there was a white in color Tee-shirt hanging on the wall above the bathroom area of the cell. Lt. Monsivais pulled the shirt down and observed a hole in the wall, with three bricks completely missing from the wall with access to the infrastructure.”

Rumors

Supervisors who received written reprimands for failing to supervise their employees and ensuring procedures were followed were: Deputy Cameron Burns, Deputy Amber Earl, Sgt. Steven Stadt, Deputy Travis Webb, Whitehead and Monsivais. Monsivais’ written reprimand noted the jail was placed in administrative non-compliance by Texas Commission on Jail Standards because jail staff members failed to follow procedures for counting inmates.

In his report, Webb, a supervisor of the South Jail, said he had heard rumors that jail staff members at the Marvin A. Smith facility and on the seventh floor control room at the courthouse would watch movies. He said he had no specific information, though.

“Officer Tyler Foster: He was the one and only officer that was ever brought up to me as one that would hold a flash drive that contained movies. Any time I would ask if he was watching a movie he would deny....” Webb’s report says. “Foster is very big into pop culture and talked about movies and shows often, but, I never saw him in the act of or had it reported of any time he was watching a movie.”

He also tried catch jailers in the act of watching movies while on shift, describing his attempt in November when he went to the control room to check.

“(Danny Adams) denied any movies being played and I did not see any movies being played on the reflection from inside the control room,” Webb’s report says.

Cerliano previously said video cameras monitored hallways in the jail before the escape. He said additional security measures would be added to the jail, and cameras have been installed in the control rooms of the sixth and seventh floors of the courthouse where the South Jail is located. Jail supervisors and command staff can check remotely with a computer or phone to see what jail staff members are doing.

“I am fully confident in the changes to be made that this will never be a problem under my supervision again,” Webb’s report said.


Local
Polar Plunge, firetruck pull at Lake Gladewater benefit Special Olympics

GLADEWATER — It took character Saturday to jump into the chilly waters of Lake Gladewater. Or should that be it took a character?

Amanda Wells was dressed as Wonder Woman, and Chris Hoefer wore an outfit consisting of a green tutu, foam shamrock necklace, green hat and angel wings.

They were two of the 15 people who participated in the first Polar Plunge, one of two events Saturday at the lake that benefited Special Olympics Texas.

Special Olympics Texas started the Polar Plunge about 15 years ago and decided to bring it to Lake Gladewater after talking with area volunteers and the Anytime Fitness franchise in Gladewater, said Alex Hubbard, regional executive director for Special Olympics Texas. Anytime Fitness hosted the event, which drew more than 50 spectators.

Hubbard said Special Olympics Texas generally conducts polar plunges in water parks throughout the state.

“This one is unique because we get to use a lake,” he said.

Hubbard said organizers did not set a specific fundraising goal for Special Olympics. Its main goal was to raise awareness of the organization, which provides activities to people of all ages who have physical or mental disabilities or both.

Those taking the plunge did so based on a random drawing with one person at a time, except for Anytime Fitness owner Mark Collins. He jumped into the lake with his son, Ari, 11, and Ari’s friend, Mark Scott, 12.

“It’s colder than I thought it would be,” Ari said afterward. “It was just real fun, and I had a great time doing it.”

John Hanisee of the Knights of Columbus Council in Longview dove into the lake instead of jumping from the dock like the other participants.

“Just to be different,” Hanisee said after he emerged from the lake that had a temperature of about 50 degrees at the time of the plunge.

Participants drew cheers and applause from the crowd.

Anytime Fitness manager Marcheta McKinley was the first person to take the plunge and emerged shivering. But despite her discomfort, she said she would do it again.

Special Olympics Texas organizers honored McKinley afterward for raising the most money at $1,650. The award for top team went to Team Christina, which raised $1,030. It is named for the daughter of Hoefer, who wore the shamrock-themed outfit.

The award for top costume went to Wells.

Later Saturday, the Special Olympics festivities concluded with three 10-member teams competing to pull a Gladewater Fire Department firetruck weighing 4,300 pounds 75 feet in the shortest time.

Two teams consisted of all men while the other team, which finished second, was made up of 10 women, several of whom wore tutus.

The winning team finished in a time of 19.28 seconds.

Mark Collins, a leader of the winning team, said he was not surprised, and jokingly said the firetruck driver hit the brakes because “they wanted the girls to win.”

Organizers plan to conduct the second annual event next February at Lake Gladewater.


Today_in_longview_history
February 9

Feb. 9, 1965: Construction of a two-story, 35-unit AstroMotel was begun at 1515 E. Marshall Ave. The project involved an investment of more than $250,000. It was the 17th in the AstroMotel organization with others in Arizona, California, Kansas and Utah. It was scheduled to open in May.


Local
Christus Good Shepherd, Longview Regional each get 2 stars in latest federal rating

Longview Regional Medical Center and Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center-Longview’s ratings dropped in the latest hospital quality and safety ratings issued by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Each hospital received two stars out of five in the new Hospital Compare ratings. A year ago, Longview Regional received a four-star rating, while Good Shepherd received three stars.

The ratings do not affect the hospitals’ reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.

“We are disappointed that our rating dropped, because we know that Longview Regional Medical Center provides better patient care than what the currently public data shows,” Longview Regional CEO Casey Robertson said in a statement. “No rating system is perfect, but this is the rating system that all hospitals operate under. We are supportive of transparency of information that helps patients make informed choices about their health care.”

William Knous, spokesman for Christus Health Northeast Texas, echoed Robertson’s statement.

“We support the concept of providing an easier way for patients and communities to understand quality data. However, we remain concerned about the way the CMS star-rating system oversimplifies the complexity of delivering high-quality care based on data that in some cases lags behind for up to five years,” Knous said in a statement.

“Christus Good Shepherd Health System has received numerous quality and safety awards and accreditations from national organizations like the American Heart Association, the American College of Surgeons and Joint Commission. These recognitions single out excellence in heart care, patient safety, stroke care and overall quality, among many more services,” Knous said.

Robertson said, “Our hospital performs in line with the national average in many areas that comprise the star ratings – safety, mortality, effective care, timely care and imaging efficiency.

“Two areas we’re focused on strengthening are readmissions and patient experience. Readmissions relies on data from July 2017 to June 2018 while the patient experience relies on data from calendar year 2018. Our hospital has implemented best practices in both areas since then,” he continued.

At the Hospital Compare website, people can look up the overall rating of hospitals by location or zip code. They also can compare hospitals based on criteria such as clinical outcomes, customer satisfaction and patient safety.

Individual measures of hospital performance — such as how often patients get infections after surgery, how long patients wait in the emergency department before seeing a doctor or nurse and how likely patients are to get readmitted to the hospital after a heart attack — are used to create a snapshot of the hospital’s overall quality of care.

About the data

The latest Hospital Compare data cover 4,586 hospitals nationwide, according to the Advisory Board, a for-profit firm that uses research, technology and consulting to improve health care organizations’ performance.

Of those hospitals, 407 received the highest rating of five stars, 1,136 hospitals received four stars, 1,119 received three stars, 710 hospitals received two stars and 228 hospitals received one star, according to the Advisory Board website said. CMS did not rate 986 hospitals.

The hospital data consist of more than 100 measures divided into seven categories: mortality (death rate), safety of care, readmission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and efficient use of medical imaging.

Data were collected over one, two or three years. For example, most of the death rate data were collected from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2018. Data on safety of care were collected primarily from Jan. 1, 2018, until the end of that year, though data on serious complications were collected from July 1, 2016, until June 30, 2018. None of the data are from 2019 or 2020.

Complications and deaths

Good Shepherd’s rates of patient complications and deaths were no different from either the national rate or national benchmark in most categories.

However, in the category of surgical complications, it scored better than the national benchmark in two areas: catheter-associated urinary tract infections in intensive care units and select wards, and Clostridium difficile intestinal infections. C. difficile can cause serious hospital-acquired infections.

Longview Regional’s rates of complications and deaths were no different from the national rate or benchmark in all categories.

Readmission rates

Good Shepherd and Longview Regional’s hospital-wide readmission rates were worse than the national rate of 15.3%, according to the Hospital Compare website.

Good Shepherd’s readmission rates for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure patients were worse than the national ones, which are 19.5 % for COPD and 21.6% for heart failure.

However, the hospital’s ratio of unplanned hospital visits after hospital outpatient surgery is better than expected, the website said.

Longview Regional’s readmission rates tracked the national average in all categories, but patients with heart failure and pneumonia who were readmitted spent more days in the hospital on average than patients nationwide.

This category tracks the number of patients who had to be hospitalized again within 30 days of their initial stay and how long they were hospitalized during return visits.

These rates can indicate if hospitals effectively prevent complications, give patients clear instructions about care after they leave the hospital and help patients smoothly return to their home or another facility such as a nursing home, the website said.

“Many factors can influence whether a patient will return to the hospital after discharge, including compliance with care plans, support from family and friends, and underlying health issues,” Longview Regional’s Robertson said.

He listed steps his hospital has taken to reduce readmissions. These include:

■ scheduling patients’ next physician visit before they are discharged;

■ working with local health care providers to ensure patients receive a “seamless continuum of care”;

■ identifying patients at high-risk for readmission when they are initially admitted;

■ improving communication with primary care providers for patients with chronic or acute illnesses;

■ regularly reviewing readmissions to identify factors that caused them;

■ developing more tools to help patients, families and caregivers provide appropriate care after discharge;

■ creating a process for monthly audits and data collection to track trends and implement new processes; and

■ providing staff with diagnosis-specific toolkits and best practices to help prevent complications.

Patient experience

In the overall patient experience category, Good Shepherd received a three-star rating, while Longview Regional received two stars.

Fifty-eight percent of Longview Regional patients who filled out a survey said they always received help as soon as they wanted it; the average for Texas hospitals is 72%, while the national average is 70%. Good Shepherd scored slightly higher at 63%.

When asked if their rooms and bathrooms were always clean, 64 % of Longview Regional survey participants said yes. Seventy-nine percent of Good Shepherd patients answered yes to the same question; the average for Texas hospitals is 78%; nationally, it is 76%.

Finally, 70% of Longview Regional patients surveyed said they would recommend the hospital to others; the figure for Good Shepherd was 62%. The average for Texas hospitals is 75%; nationally, it is 72%.

“We have a designated patient advocate coordinator who (visits) our patients and listens to their concerns. Our leadership team also performs patient (visits) and encourages patients to speak up about what we can improve,” Robertson said.

Timeliness and efficiency of care

In this category, CMS evaluated nine areas: sepsis (blood infection) care, cataract surgeries, colonoscopy follow-up, heart attack care, emergency department care, preventive care, cancer care, pregnancy and delivery care and use of medical imaging.

Both hospitals did well in recommending appropriate follow-up screening colonoscopies — Longview Regional did this for 100% of patients and Christus GSMC for 92% of patients. The figure for hospitals in Texas and nationwide is 89%.

One hundred percent of Longview Regional’s patients with a history of colon polyps received follow-up colonoscopies in the appropriate timeframe; for Good Shepherd, that number was 93%. Both bested the Texas and national averages of 92% and 93%, respectively.

While heart attack care data were not available for Longview Regional, the average number of minutes before outpatients with chest pain received an electrocardiogram (ECG) at Good Shepherd was 2 minutes, below the 7 minute-average at hospitals in Texas and nationwide.

The Longview hospitals also performed well at providing critical care to emergency room patients with stroke symptoms. Eighty-four percent of Good Shepherd patients with stroke symptoms received brain scans within 45 minutes of arrival. At Longview Regional, that figure was 80%; the Texas average is 73%, and nationwide, it is 72%.

Christus Good Shepherd is committed to “providing patients and their family members with a truly unique healing experience that respects the individual and serves the community with dignity, compassion and excellence,” Knous said.

Robertson said, “We will continue working to improve, and as newer data is published, (Longview Regional) will have a rating that better reflects the quality, compassionate care that we provide to patients in East Texas.”