Hospital staff in tears after inmate patient attacks deputy, grabs his gun

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A St. Louis man arrested after a high-speed chase in the Twin Cities attacked a police deputy and attempted to pull his gun from his holster at a hospital in St. Paul, a criminal complaint says.

Charges filed by the Ramsey District Court say that Earl Bennett, 32, punched Deputy Kevin Clemen in the face and grabbed hold of his firearm with both hands, struggling with the officer in a treatment room at Regions Hospital on Thursday.

The incident caused an uproar at the hospital, with the criminal complaint saying hospital staff were informed a patient had a gun and the area was put into lockdown. Patients and staff were "running from the emergency room area," some of them in tears.

Bennett had been stopped by police in St. Paul on May 19 for driving without headlights but took off after police learned he had a parole violation warrant outstanding in St. Louis, Missouri. He allegedly told an officer: "I'm not going back to prison."

A chase through residential areas of St. Paul ensued, which resulted in Bennett crashing his car and taking off on foot. Police couldn't immediately locate him but he was apprehended in the following days.

On Thursday he was taken by Ramsey County deputies to Regions Hospital after he complained of lower back pain, allegedly from taking a fall from his bunk in his jail cell.

Doctors cleared him, but Bennett fainted on his way to the restroom and deputies took him back to the treatment room and placed him on the bed with his right leg shackled.

He complained of a headache, the criminal complaint said, but when Clemen went to assist him with the nurse call button, Bennett allegedly punched him in the face and followed him as he staggered, grabbing his gun and attempting to pull it from the officer's holster.

Clemen's colleague Deputy Tom Dhaedl arrived and grabbed Bennett, but Clemen saw something black fall from his gun belt and thought Bennett had disarmed him, and yelled: "He's got my gun."

The incident ended without a shot being fired, though, as it turned out Bennett hadn't removed Clemen's gun, and eventually let go when Dhaedl pointed his gun at him and said: "Drop the gun or I'm going to shoot you."

Clemen received minor injuries in the incident, getting a lump on his forehead and scrapes on his arms.

Bennett made his first appearance at Ramsey County District Court Friday on four charges. They are for disarming an officer, attacking an officer, attempted escape from custody, and possession of a firearm by an ineligible person.

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