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Federal report slams St. Cloud Hospital's handling of patient who killed cop

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St. Cloud Hospital has been slammed in a federal report for failing to provide adequate care to the suicidal, hallucinating man who grabbed the gun of Aitkin County Deputy Steven Sandberg and shot him to death.

Danny Hammond, 50, was placed on a 72-hour "psychiatric hold" by a physician's assistant after arriving at the hospital, but not once during his stay was he evaluated by a psychiatrist, according to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report.

Hammond had been admitted following a suicide attempt and for terrorizing his wife at gunpoint. He was "actively suicidal" during his stay, saying he was going to kill himself and "any male who came into the room," the report says.

Although described as being "a high risk for violence," the physician's assistant decided that "psychiatric intervention" was no longer required, so psychiatric services were discontinued on Oct. 16.

In the early hours of Oct. 18, a little over 24 hours after psychiatric services were stopped, an unrestrained Hammond took the gun from Sandberg and fatally shot him, investigators said. Hammond died a short time later after being tasered by officers.

"There was no evidence that the hospital's medical staff providing any kind of psychiatric service after Oct. 16," the report says. "At no time was [Hammond] evaluated by a psychiatrist or provided treatment for his suicidal threats."

The CMS says a 72-hour hold can only be ordered by a physician – not an assistant – and psychiatric consultations and/or treatment must continue throughout that three-day period until the doctor says the hold can be lifted.

The report also found that Hammond had been placed in a medical unit in the general hospital population, and at the time of Sandberg's killing was not restrained to his bed.

During his stay in this unit, Hammond begged the staff to kill him, attempted to kill himself by smothering, and asked a nurse to set him on fire. He was also hallucinating the smell of smoke and insisting his hospital bed was "leaking oil."

Following Sandberg's death, the hospital was placed on "immediate jeopardy" status by the CMS, which threatened to withdraw its funding until it had improved its safety protocols. Although this status was lifted on Friday, it is still considered "non-compliant," CMS told BringMeTheNews.

In response to the CMS' findings, KSTP reports hospital president Craig Broman has assured patients the facility is safe.

"The patient was evaluated by a credentialed member of our psychiatric team," he said in a statement. "We have been asked to refrain from commenting on specifics related to the tragic incident."

"We look forward to providing a comprehensive review for the public when we are in a position to do so," he added.

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