HELENA - An incident with a client who walked away from the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder on Friday night left Boulder police chief Juan Trujillo with a broken ankle.
The incident was briefly described to the Montana Legislature’s MDC transition planning advisory council on Thursday morning by Rebecca de Camara, developmental services division administrator with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.
De Camara said a MDC client walked away from the campus with a therapist and additional staff shadowing him.
In an interview with the IR, Boulder city attorney Steven Shapiro said that walkaways from MDC aren’t common, but do happen occasionally. The protocol when they happen is for the MDC staff to shadow, but not confront the client and notify authorities. On Friday evening, Trujillo was the officer available to respond.
Trujillo was familiar with the client, who was not identified by de Camara, from past interactions. The client became aggressive, de Camara told the advisory committee. Trujillo tried to use a Taser but it malfunctioned and he was required to take physical action.
Trujillo attempted a leg sweep of the client, she said, and the client landed on the chief’s leg and broke his ankle. The MDC staff was concerned the client had injured his shoulder, de Camara said. However, medical personnel refused to transport the client so MDC staff transported him and he was later diagnosed with scrapes and bruises.
To secure the MDC client, Trujillo was assisted by a Boulder citizen who saw the interaction, Shapiro said. According to information provided to Shapiro, MDC staff did not engage the client at any point.
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Trujillo’s familiarity with the client comes from his visits to the MDC campus, Shapiro said.
“Juan has spent some time at MDC and sometimes it’s responding to problems, I think sometimes it’s getting to know people and letting them get to know him,” he said. “He indicated we have not seen a level of aggression with this particular person in the past.”
The client was returned to the MDC campus and placed in the secure unit where he remains, de Camara told the advisory committee.
Shapiro is still unsure if charges will be filed in the matter. He said he needs to gather more information and will then consult with Jefferson County Attorney Matthew Johnson.
One of the questions that must be answered is whether or not the MDC client is able to form criminal intent, Shapiro said.
“If a person is not able to form a criminal intent because they may have some disability or mental status then it may be that you can’t charge a crime,” he said. “That’s all part of the information we need to dissect and I need a report from the chief about what exactly happened and we may get into some information about the status of the resident and at the moment we don’t have all the information we need in order to analyze if this particular person can be charged with a crime.”
Associated Press reporter Lisa Baumann contributed to this story.