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2 charged in unrest at California psychiatric hospital

January 20, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two patients at a state psychiatric hospital are charged with resisting hospital police during unrest that has kept the facility locked down for nearly a week.

They were arrested Tuesday when police responded to a Coalinga State Hospital living unit where a patient was yelling and striking the walls, Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montano said Friday.

The patient resisted a search and others began shoving officers and throwing food. Two patients suffered minor injuries but no employees were hurt, Montano said.

It was part of unrest in which patients also broke windows, jammed locks, clogged toilets and damaged electronic messaging boards. Patients at the facility housing mostly sexually violent predators were protesting a crackdown on digital storage devices, like flash drives, that officials say are often used to smuggle child pornography.

Daniel Shea, 55, had his first court appearance Friday on felony charges of resisting an officer and making criminal threats.

Brendan Bergh of the Fresno County public defender’s office declined comment on Shea’s behalf, saying he had asked that Shea’s arraignment be continued until Feb. 9 so another attorney who regularly handles state hospital cases could take over.

The Fresno County district attorney on Friday charged John Edgington, 62, with five counts of resisting officers. He is set for arraignment Monday, when an attorney is likely to be appointed if he doesn’t retain one in the meantime.

Hospital police are also investigating a Jan. 13 incident when a patient allegedly threw a liquid at a contractual employee, Montano said in an email.

Also, about 25 locks were jammed throughout the facility when the protest began over the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend but were repaired without major disruptions. Montano said no staff were isolated nor were any patients barricaded because of the jammed locks.

The hospital is barring visits indefinitely, except by attorneys representing patients, but Montano said some living units are under fewer restrictions as the lockdown is gradually eased. The hospital is allowing more activities based on whether patients in individual living units are considered likely to engage in more protests.

More employees have been brought in and other agencies are on standby if they are needed, Montano said.

Department officials have cited widespread child pornography at Coalinga to justify new emergency regulations last week that bar digital storage devices and allow patients only commercially produced CDs, DVDs and game players with no access to the internet.

The facility in Fresno County can hold nearly 1,300 patients, nearly three-quarters of whom are court-designated sexually violent predators. Most of the remaining patients are being treated for mental illness after completing prison sentences.

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