They also said in a written statement released to the Times Friday that Daniel J. Ryan, 35, the father of two young daughters, was held down without being able to breath for “at least seven minutes.”
It’s the first time that Ryan’s family has made any public comments on their ordeal, which began Oct. 9 when Ryan became unruly during a visit to see his wife, Jaime, at Cape Cod Hospital. He was restrained by security staff, lost consciousness and died 20 days later at the hospital.
“Our family has been shattered since the unexpected death of our son and brother, father and husband,” the family statement reads. “One thing is clear, however, and that is the cause of Daniel’s death.
“The medical examiner has ruled it a homicide,” the letter continues, “caused by compression to Daniel’s neck and chest in the commission of a restraint.”
A law enforcement official with ties to the case who has asked to remain anonymous confirmed that the medical examiner’s ruling is homicide. That means Ryan’s death came as a direct result of human hands, rather than a medical condition or other factors, the source said.
The medical examiner’s ruling does not, however, say whether the use of force that led to Ryan’s death was “justifiable” or “allowed within the constraints of the law,” the law enforcement source said. That will be up to the criminal investigation and the courts to decide, the source added.
The source, who has viewed a surveillance video of the incident, agreed that Ryan was held down for a long time, though he couldn’t say exactly how many minutes.
Hospital denies wrongdoing
Cape Cod Healthcare spokesman David Reilly last night called the family’s estimate on the time of the restraint “absolutely false.”
“The medical examiner has not been in communication with the hospital since the incident occurred,” Reilly said.
The hospital contends that Ryan’s behavior posed a threat to himself, the staff and innocent bystanders. They told state investigators that “less restrictive” restraints had caused him to react violently.
After investigating the incident, the state Department of Public Health cited the hospital for a federal violation of patient rights.
The DPH based its finding on interviews with witnesses and the surveillance video.
Three security guards, a security supervisor, nursing supervisor, and two others involved in the incident refused to be interviewed for the DPH investigation. Their refusal was within their legal right, Reilly told the Times last week.
According to the DPH report, which was obtained by the Times following a Freedom of Information Act request, Ryan was visiting his wife at the hospital when he began to behave strangely. He bolted from the emergency room, traversed hospital hallways and eventually had to be restrained.
A hospital staff member pulled one of Ryan’s arms behind him, the DPH report states. Ryan then tripped on a sheet that had been over his head — the report doesn’t explain why he had it over his head — and he fell to the floor.
A security officer put him in a head lock and flipped him, according to the DPH report.
One security officer appeared to get on top of him, while another put his right leg over Ryan. A third positioned himself at Ryan’s head.
In their prepared statement to the Times, the Ryan family expressed frustration with the possible length of the criminal investigation. They say Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe had told them he was “leaning toward bringing the case to a coroner’s inquest, because of the extent of public interest, and that it could take as long as a year to make that decision.”
A coroner’s inquest differs from a grand jury hearing in one major way, according to legal experts. Both are processes in which a jury of citizens hear testimony to decide the manner of death of a person. But while all grand jury statements and evidence remain private information, coroner’s inquest proceedings become public after a finding. “If Michael O’Keefe wants a coroner’s inquest, he wants the information to be out there, so there’s no questions,” the law enforcement source said.
Family wary of D.A.
O’Keefe refused yesterday to confirm details in the Ryans’ letter to the Times.
He would only repeat what he stated last week to the Times regarding the case: “The autopsy has been completed and we are going over it very carefully and will make an announcement in due course with respect to further action we expect to take.”
The family has apparently harbored doubts for a long time about getting fair representation from Cape prosecutors.
In November, they asked that the criminal investigation of the incident move to a different district attorney’s jurisdiction.
In a letter signed by James and Barbara Ryan of Mashpee, they list a number of reasons why they think Cape Cod Hospital is too closely entwined with O’Keefe’s office.
The family wrote O’Keefe a letter on Nov. 16, 2009, two weeks after Ryan’s funeral. They stated that Cape Cod Healthcare is one of the largest employers in Barnstable County. Furthermore, the director of security at Cape Cod Hospital, who was directly involved with the circumstances of Ryan’s death, is a former detective sergeant from the Barnstable Police Department, the letter states. The head of hospital security is Ed Smith, a retired Barnstable officer.
Thirdly, the letter states, a employee who works in the district attorney’s office also works as a hospital security guard.
Lastly, Ryan’s brother, Jeff Ryan and his wife, Randy, work in this county’s criminal justice system, the letter states.
“For all of these reasons, we ask that this matter be reviewed by another prosecuting attorney’s office,” the family stated in its letter to O’Keefe.
O’Keefe denied the request in a letter back to the family on Nov. 20.
The district attorney wrote that none of the facts stated by the family are enough to move the case. He said state police assigned to the district attorney’s office were investigating the Ryan case, not the Barnstable police. O’Keefe also said in his letter to the family that any past connection with a former sergeant turned security chief would not be a factor in his probe. He said a junior level employee works as a victim witness assistant in the district attorney’s office and is also a part-time hospital security guard.
“This young man was not working at the hospital on the date in question,” O’Keefe wrote.
Just before 5:30 p.m., Guilderland police officer Paul Mahan responded to a call from Crossgates’ security detail complaining that three unsupervised 15-year-olds were refusing to leave the mall.
Under mall policies, all children younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Mahan confronted the youths with Crossgates security guard Don Anderson, but they again refused to leave or show identification, police said.
The three allegedly had been kicked out of the mall by security earlier in the day, but had re-entered.
Police said that when Mahan was trying to arrest one of the youths, the boy resisted and a struggle ensued. Anderson had to help Mahan handcuff the boy, but Mahan suffered a leg injury and had to be transported to Albany Med. He was later released. Guilderland police wouldn’t give details about the injury or how it occurred.
A second youth ran from the scene, but police were able to catch and arrest him. The third youth was arrested without incident.
All three were charged with second-degree assault, criminal trespass and resisting arrest. They were released to their parents and will reappear in Albany County Family Court at a date to be determined.
Officials said Deputy JacquelineDunn was charged Friday night with possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine.
Dunn faces indefinite suspension and an internal affairs investigation is in progress, according to officials.