Dangerous county jail inmate sits in legal limbo

Polk County Itemizer-Observer – February 24, 2021

Polk County must hold Daniel Hauge-Cook until state mental hosptial has space

DALLAS — Polk County law enforcement officials are worried about the well being of an inmate in their custody at the jail. While Daniel Hauge-Cook waits for an opening at the Oregon State Mental Hospital, officials fear he is missing out on receiving the proper treatment their facility is ill-equipped to provide him.

The Polk County Circuit Court found Hauge-Cook guilty except for insanity, on Dec. 10, 2020, for several criminal offenses stemming from a March 23, 2020, incident.

According to Polk County Sheriff Greg Garton, Hauge-Cook fired multiple rounds from a rifle in the direction of multiple residences and passing motorists near Ash Creek Bible Church at 1483 16th St. N. in Monmouth. He also fired rounds in the direction of responding Monmouth Police Officers. At one point, he even pointed the rifle directly at police. No one, including Hague-Cook, was injured in the incident, Garton said.

“He is very lucky he wasn’t killed by responding Monmouth Police Department officers,” Garton said. “They were completely justified in using deadly force (I saw the body cam video), but they chose not to because they thought the rifle he was using was an airsoft gun, but it wasn’t. The responding officers are lucky they didn’t get shot as well.”

After he was apprehended, Hauge-Cook was booked into the Polk County Jail, and charged with unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful possession of body armor, three counts of menacing and second-degree disorderly conduct.

Within the Dec. 10 judgment, Hauge-Cook was ordered to be placed under the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board and ordered committed for a 10-year sentence to the Oregon State Mental Hospital. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office was ordered to transport him to the hospital without unreasonable delay.

Since the date of the judgment, the Polk County Jail has been attempting to arrange for transportation for Hauge-Cook to the State Hospital as ordered. Hospital officials have refused to comply, stating there is not room for him. Garton said the latest update Feb. 19 from the hospital’s legal counsel is they hope to have a bed for Hauge-Cook by mid March.

During the sheriff’s update for the Polk County Commissioner’s Feb. 9, County Counsel Morgan Smith told them the county jail is in a gray area in its legal authority to continue to hold Hague-Cook.

“It’s not the best place for him to be,” Morgan told the commissioners. “We’ll do what we can. It’s not someone we can just let out the back door because the state won’t take him. Because that really doesn’t do him any good either.”

To express their growing frustration over the situation, Morgan and Garton wrote a letter to the Oregon State Hospital Jan. 29.

“We have been continually told that the hospital will not admit him,” they wrote. “Further, no date or even estimated date has been provided to the jail to inform us when we may be able to transport Mr. Hauge-Cook.

“I think we can all agree that an individual determined by a court to have a qualifying mental disorder such that he presents a danger to himself is not appropriate to be housed in a county jail,” the letter continued. “While it is understandable to have some delays in coordinating transportation, we are well beyond that timeline.”

While Rebeka Gipson-King, Hospital Relations Director, could not comment directly on Hauge-Cook’s case, her explanation for the delay in accepting him boiled down to two overall issues — priority and pandemic protocols.

Gipson-King explained that when people are accused of a crime, sometimes they are not able to participate in their trial because of the severity of their mental illness. In these cases, the court may issue an order under ORS 161.370 for them to be sent for mental health treatment so they can become well enough to “aid and assist” in their own defense.

As of last week, 36 patients awaited a bed under the “aid and assist” category, including those who have received a mental evaluation and those awaiting the evaluation. Both get priority over patients ordered to the custody of the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB), including Hauge-Cook.

Gipson-King said the hospital is under a federal order to take the aid and assist cases first within seven days of being assigned.

Garton, however, fears the hospital is misinterpreting that federal order in an overabundance of caution.

“They are using the defense from a lawsuit they were involved with that the court stipulated they needed to clear the backlog of 370s, which they then took as they have to do all 370s before anything else,” Garton said.

Garton fears that backlog will never clear as new patients are continually added to the list while Hauge-Cook is pushed further down the list in priority.

Exceptions can be made.

“We do have an expedited admission process, if someone is not doing well in jail or acute care at a hospital,” Gibson-King said.

However, she added admissions to the state hospital have slowed over the past year due to safety protocols instituted after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hospital has three admissions monitoring units that admits patients on a rolling basis that involves a 21-day process, she explained.

“They receive a rapid test when they first get in, are screened twice daily and monitored, then given a full test the following Tuesday,” Gibson-King said. “None of patients are allowed anywhere else in the hospital during this time.”

If they’re healthy, patients are moved from these isolated cohorts and admitted in to regular cohorts to better contact trace any potential outbreaks of COVID-19. She said the hospital has had three since the start of the pandemic, one each in October, November and December.

“This protocol has proven effective, to catch and halt outbreaks,” Gibson-King said. She admitted the procedure has slowed down admission process. The OSH average weekly admission rate between April 13, 2020 and Feb. 18, 2021 has been 15.6 admission per week. The 52-weeks prior to the pandemic, the hospital averaged 20.4 admissions per week. She said this is a 23.5% reduction in OSH admissions, due in part by both the several weeks where they paused admissions as well as the structured admissions monitoring process.

“This has put a strain on hospitals and jails,” Gibson-King said. “At the same time, it helps keep everybody safe. We try admit as many patients as quickly as possible, expediting the process where we can when others can’t serve these patients in their own facilities.”

Meanwhile, Hauge-Cook waits in the Polk County Jail, a facility Garton said is not right for him.

“The bottom line is I won’t release him, because he poses a risk to the public, but he is their responsibility and they just keep pushing him out,” Garton said. “I feel bad for him and his family as he isn’t receiving the care he really needs. But I really don’t know what else to do. His attorney may file contempt charges against the state, but I really don’t know what that will do.”      

Morgan also warned in his letter to the state hospital that further action “will be necessary if the PSRB and Oregon State Hospital continue to refuse to perform their duties under the law and as specifically by the Polk County Circuit Court.”