WRAL Investigates

Ex-VA hospital officer speaks out about firing

Posted August 6, 2010

— A police officer accused of using excessive force on a patient at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham almost two years ago said Friday that the hospital wrongly fired him after the incident.

Officer Peter Maroney said a disruptive patient hit him when he tried to defuse a dispute in the VA hospital on Oct. 28, 2008. He said he doused the patient with pepper spray, but when the man wouldn't move from a doorway, he hit him four times with a baton.

The incident left the patient, who was in his early 70s, with a broken bone in his hand.

"I had to do what I had to do to protect myself," Maroney said, noting the patient had a history of violence at the hospital.

"The guy was just being loud at the time. He wasn't being resistive physically at all," he said. "The next thing I know, when we step into the room, the guy spins and punches me in the face.

"I was assaulted by this guy. We are armed officers. I do carry a weapon with me, and if this guy had gotten a hold of my weapon or struck me again, the outcome could have been a lot worse," he said.

The hospital security video of the incident was released Friday, more than a year after WRAL News requested it.

The video doesn't show Maroney getting hit, but it does show him and another officer jumping back during the incident. Maroney pointed out that the tape doesn't show the incident in real time, but is a series of images taken every few seconds.

According to the VA's investigative report, two witnesses said the patient hit Maroney. One said he took a "straight punch."

VA officer disputes firing Former VA officer disputes firing

Maroney's chief called the use of force on the patient justified, but an investigative board deemed it was excessive and amounted to "patient abuse." Maroney was fired six months later, and the chief was reassigned.

Maroney, who now works for a family-owned company in Fuquay-Varina, appealed his firing, and the case is in arbitration.

"I need to have this settled," he said.

VA officials said they couldn't comment specifically on the case, but added that patient care is their top priority so they were confident the right decision was made.

John Midgette, executive director of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, said he couldn't comment on the case but said that he worries officers can be dismissed without due process when cases look bad, especially on videotape.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr., who often hears similar cases on the state level, said they are usually tough to call.

"We try to put ourselves in the position of that person," Morrison said. "Sometimes, reasonable minds can differ on what's reasonable (force). It's not easy at times."

Federal officials never charged Maroney with a crime, but Morrison said that alone doesn't help him in fighting his termination.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • petemaroney Aug 10, 2010

    Old manjoel you are either mis-informed or an outright liar. In 18 years of law enforcement I have had only 1 allegation of excessive force and I WAS CLEARED OF THE CHARGE BY BOTH THE F.B.I. AND THE D.O.J.

  • oldmanjoel Aug 10, 2010

    Well you have to remember these are combat trained vets, so some times force is necessary. However, this pt was known to be agressive and all the staff knew he was a hitter. Maroney got hit and that wounded his pride. It wasn't the first charge of excesses force against him. Good riddence to a bad egg.

  • petemaroney Aug 9, 2010

    I am Pete Maroney.let me clear up a few facts. 1. I am alost fifty, hard to tell some peoples age just by looking. 2. The F.B.I. was called in to investigate and have me charged. Prolem was they said there was NO EXCESSIVE FORCE. In arbitration the V.A's expert, Tom Kellog, said that all of the administrative charges were baseless and he saw no problem with them. So if the FBI and Department of Justice said no excessive force and the va expert said the admin charges are baseless why did I have to loose my home, retirement, sell off all of our possesions. Get counseling for my wife and I for what?

  • allie19 Aug 6, 2010

    Guy saw dollar signs, and the VA saw a chance to escape that. Used to be in law enforcement, wouldn't dare do it these days. They don't get due process or a chance to fight back. Bad career when you make 35,000 a year, get shot at, people hate you, and if you defend yourself lose you job. I respect them, but don't envy them. They have no support or backing from anyone.

  • Baybee Doll Aug 6, 2010

    Officer Maroney needs to be reinstated with an apology. Let's see the people who judged him try to do his job for even one day.

  • leo-nc Aug 6, 2010

    Oh yeah, here comes Journey. Mr Credibility. LOL not...

  • leo-nc Aug 6, 2010

    If you think someone in their 70's can't hurt someone, tell that to the Texas state Trooper who was shot by a 72 yr old man a few years ago just because he was angry with being stopped. Killed him as he tried to get out of his car.

  • leo-nc Aug 6, 2010

    "Once in a while an over zealous person is hired into law enforcement and embarrasses everyone working in that field. This is a good example when a young man as he seems to be beats up an old man in his seventies. "---

    Blah blah blah, you don't know what happened there, or why. If they are going to judge purely on that "video", then they are in the wrong. I would be going for my job back, too. Come out here and do this job and then you tell me what can hurt us and what can't. Until then, blow.

  • airbornemonty Aug 6, 2010

    Beating up a seventy year old VA hospital patient with a night stick? Unbelievable!

    Once in a while an over zealous person is hired into law enforcement and embarrasses everyone working in that field. This is a good example when a young man as he seems to be beats up an old man in his seventies.

    Nice going young man,your actions have managed to turn a lot of veterans against law enforcement and I for one hope that you stay fired.

  • cuffusion Aug 6, 2010

    There are a few points to be made here..

    First, Why were the two officers "escorting" him to the doorway.. there was obviously some prior incident that has been omitted from the story. Its difficult to analyse an action when you dont have all of the facts..

    What we do see...
    When the "patient" struck back he was sprayed with a chemical product... a non-lethal and widely accepted approach to dealing with non compliant individuals as opposed to striking them. There is absolutely nothing wrong here..

    Then.. when the chemical application was ineffective at resolving the issue he was struck with a baton.. but if you look carefully none of the blows were directed to any area of the body that can result in serious injury. and none were struck with much force.. this is clearly within the acceptable use of force continium.. in fact this office showed considerable restraint and could have been much more aggressive and stayed within the legal boundries.. I applaud him for this..