Security guard sent to prison for sexual assault of hospital patient www.privateofficer.com
Milwaukee County’s privatization efforts have raised questions about what the county knows about those doing its work.
WISN 12 News learned a security guard paid to transport patients is serving prison time for sexually assaulting one of them.
The private security guard was paid by a county contractor.
Two years ago, Sherri Lorimer thought she was as low as she could go when she ended up here at the Milwaukee county mental health complex.
“I lost my job my whole world fell apart. I got extremely drunk,” Lorimer said. “The police came, they actually kicked down the door, took me to mental health. They said I’d get help there.”
When she got to the Milwaukee County mental health complex, the staff decided Lorimer needed to go to detox. So, a private security guard loaded her into a squad car and headed to the Genesis Detox Center on Milwaukee’s north side. But blocks from detox, the guard took a turn down an alley.
“I remember thinking, what am I going to do, the man’s got a gun, where am I going to go,” Lorimer said. “I thought I was going to die that day.”
Lorimer said she believes people should know what happened to her at the hands of a guard paid to protect her.
“He knew right where he was going, there’s no way anyone can tell me that he has not done this before, that he’s not been here before,” she said.
Police arrested 25-year-old Alex Gonzalez that night, but released him. Prosecutors charged him 8 months later after DNA test results corroborated Lorimer’s story.
Lorimer said she felt victimized again when she learned her attacker’s history. Gonzalez had no valid state license to work security and worse yet, he was an ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet Gonzalez was out on bail when he raped her.
“Heck I can’t even get some jobs because of my background, how is this man carrying a gun, working for a security company, transporting vulnerable people,” Lorimer said.
Alex Gonzalez worked for Wisconsin Security Police Services, which contracted with the county’s detox provider, and eventually the county itself, to transport patients from the mental health complex.
In a written statement, Wisconsin Security Police “denied allegations of wrongdoing (and) specifically denied contentions regarding the absence of background checks performed in the context of its hiring practices.”
Genesis Behavioral Services said it expects its contractors to conduct “a criminal background check, a review of applicable licensing, a detailed check of references.” So does Milwaukee County.
“This individual never came up as someone who was going to be dealing with our patients,” said Lisa Marks who runs Milwaukee County’s health and human services.
Marks said county contracts require private firms to check the backgrounds of those they employ. She said privatization makes it easier to get rid of problem employees.
“Had that been a Milwaukee County employee there would have been a union process to go through and a civil service process to go through to maybe say this is not the employee we want here,” Marks said.
Nonetheless, two years after Gonzalez sexually assaulted Sherri Lorimer the company that hired him still transports patients from Milwaukee County Mental Health.
“That they’re still transporting blows my mind that they’re still transporting people,” Lorimer said.
Lorimer thinks that puts the county’s most vulnerable citizens at risk.
“I’m scared to death for those people. I’m scared to death for anybody who goes to mental health. I’m scared to death for them, I’ll never be back there, ever,” Lorimer said.
Gonzalez is currently serving a five year prison sentence. As for the county, it tells 12 News it audits its contractors’ employee records to ensure the proper background checks have been completed.
Milwaukee County also said it has terminated its relationship with the security company for reasons unrelated to Lorimer’s sexual assault. The county said another company simply outbid Wisconsin Security Police for that contract.