Federal agency directs second investigation into hospital that discharged man prior to fatal police shooting

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Posted at 4:21 PM, Aug 22, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal agency has requested an investigation into the Richmond hospital that discharged a man who was in an active mental health crisis days before he was shot and killed by police, marking the second government investigation into the facility related to the matter.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has tasked the Virginia Department of Health's (VDH) licensing division with investigating the circumstances surrounding Charles Byers' time at Chippenham's Tucker Pavilion, owned by HCA Healthcare.

That investigation is now underway, according to a VDH spokesperson.

Byers, 34, was court ordered to receive emergency mental health care at the facility on July 6, two days before his fatal encounter with law enforcement.

After a mental health evaluation by the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, a Richmond magistrate determined Byers was a danger to himself or others due to his mental illness and needed to be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility because he was unwilling or unable to care for himself.

Byers was served a temporary detention order (TDO) by Chesterfield Police, the jurisdiction in which Byers lived, but after only being officially delivered to Tucker Pavilion for about three hours, he was arrested, criminally charged, and discharged.

According to Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards, hospital staff were attempting to take Byers to a psychiatric bed, but Byers was being uncooperative. Staff then called an off-duty officer, who was working at the hospital's emergency department, for assistance.

As staff were negotiating with Byers, Edwards said Byers allegedly kicked a nurse.

Despite no injuries being reported, Edwards said hospital staff then wanted Byers removed from the facility.

“Staff at the hospital informed our officer that they wish to press charges, and they were going to discharge him from their hospital," Edwards said in a previous interview with CBS 6,.

Edwards claimed the arresting officer was unaware that Byers was under a TDO.

Typically, a patient under a TDO must remain at a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours until a special justice holds a commitment hearing to determine whether the patient needs additional mental health services. Byers never had a commitment hearing.

"I think that certainly, with more information, it may have played out differently," Edwards said, adding that the officer could have left Byers in the facility or taken him to Central State Hospital had he known about the TDO.

Byers was then taken to the city jail where he went before a Richmond magistrate on the assault charge. The magistrate released Byers back into the public less than 48 hours before his death.

The afternoon of July 8, Byers was shot and killed by Chesterfield Police after they said he attempted to break into homes on Wycliff Court, was carrying a hatchet, and did not comply with officers' commands to put the weapon down.

“That’s an individual who’s in crisis, but that is a byproduct or a manifestation of a failed system," Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz said in a previous interview with CBS 6.

VDH's Office of Licensure and Certification (VDH OLC) serves as Virginia's state survey agency for CMS and conducts investigations to determine whether providers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs are meeting federal compliance requirements.

VDH OLC can only launch an investigation at the request of CMS, and a VDH spokesperson said CMS requested this investigation August 17.

"VDH OLC will follow the request from CMS and the investigation may include reviews in areas such as patient rights, medical staff, discharge planning, etc. OLC will consult with CMS on any findings," said Kimberly Beazley, director of VDH Office of Licensure and Certification.

The department was unable to comment on specific information related to the complaint allegation.

That investigation comes as the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Serivces (DBHDS), the state agency which licenses Tucker Pavilion,is also investigating the facility for compliance with state rules and regulations.

According to a DBHDS spokesperson, the agency's investigation falls under Chapter 4 of Title 37.2 of the Virginia Code, which pertains to the protections of patients who receive services at licensed facilities.

Under the referenced chapter, the state code assures patients legal rights and care consistent with basic human dignity.

A spokesperson for DBHDS said its investigation remains ongoing and there is no estimated timeline on when it will be completed.

CBS 6 reached out to HCA for comment on these investigations and did not hear back.

HCA has repeatedly declined to answer specific questions, citing patient privacy laws, but previously stated that the assault in the hospital happened in the presence of the RPD officer and the facility could not override the arrest.

The Richmond Police Department chose to reject CBS 6's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to view body camera footage of the incident. Richmond's Senior Assistant City Attorney Sharon Carr cited a FOIA exemption that gives police agencies the option to either withhold or disclose criminal investigative files that do not pertain to an active case.

A spokesperson for the Chesterfield Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, which is reviewing the criminal investigation into the police shooting of Byers, said its investigation remains ongoing.

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