WRAL Investigates

Patient's mother: Fired Cherry Hospital worker shouldn't return

Posted October 19, 2010

WRAL Investigates

— Essie Freeman, 78, has a personal interest in North Carolina’s zero-tolerance policy on abuse in psychiatric hospitals.

Surveillance cameras at Cherry Hospital showed her son, Bernard Freeman, a 55-year-old schizophrenia patient, in an altercation with a hospital staff member during the overnight hours of March 10 into March 11.

Essie Freeman said she first saw the incident in a WRAL Investigates’ story on Sept. 23.

“He kicked (Bernard and) bounced him back and forth against the wall,” Essie Freeman said. “He didn’t have to kick him around like that.”

Cherry Hospital fired O'Tonious Raynor after deeming his actions against Bernard Freeman as abusive, but Raynor’s work history might help him get his job back. His firing could be overturned this week.

According to the written record, the altercation began when Bernard Freeman wasn’t allowed to smoke and punched Raynor several times, injuring his eye. Raynor then pushed him down and pinned him against the furniture while standing on his hand, which was in a cast.

Patient's mother speaks on fired Cherry Hospital worker Patient's mother speaks on fired Cherry Hospital worker

According to the written account and the tape, the scuffle happened in a common area, and then Raynor dragged Bernard Freeman down the hall to the bedrooms – out of view of the surveillance cameras.

An administrative law judge overseeing the appeal agreed that Raynor used excessive force, but said in his opinion that Raynor should have been suspended, not fired.

Essie Freeman does not want Raynor to return.

“If he’d been working with animals or treating an animal like that, the animal rights people would have the hospital surrounded,” she said. “If he goes back there, that’s letting him think it’s OK.”

Raynor says his intent was not to abuse the patient, but to “keep from getting hurt.”

“These glasses are a result of that (altercation). I lost some vision in my left eye,” he said.

Raynor’s employee reviews were "outstanding,” and the written report says Bernard Freeman was an aggressive patient who couldn't be around others. But Essie Freeman says Raynor's size could've easily given him the upper hand, without such force.

“He’s a big man, and Bernard at the time was 125 pounds,” she said.

The State Personnel Commission will review the case Thursday. The hearing will hinge around whether Raynor went too far and the fact that he didn't call for help. Raynor says he tried, but that his personal call button malfunctioned.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • molliecjan1 Oct 20, 2010

    lower ranking staff like Raynor have no say so in how many staff are available RROADRUNNER99, your comments make sense in a vacuum where staff have some say so in safety matters, but that is not the case at Cherry. And as for knowing what the job required before taking the job Raynor has 2 decades in with stellar reviews many of us find that with staff cuts, downsizing etc that the job is way more dangerous than it was 3,5 or more years ago. A recent article in goldsboro newsargus highlighted the dramatic increase in violence against nurses and alsop how the states website showed 40 assaults while the newsargus found over 200. This worker has been asked by management many times to be assigned to the most violent patients because he is so good at it, but nobodys perfect. He was struck near the temple 4 times many people in many professions would react harshly to that. Your ideas make some sense but they show you dont work there as often little old lady staff are assigned to 6 ft

  • rroadrunner99 Oct 20, 2010

    It seem's to me that the worker should have known what condition the patient was in since he had worked at the place a while. Why didn't he take another worker with him BEFORE he went in if he couldn't handle the patient without committing what look's like assaualt and battery to me. I wonder what all these people would be saying if it were their brother or son? Didn't this worker know what this job required before he took it? If he couldn't handle this type of work he shouldn't have took the job. Maybe he deserves a DIFFERENT job at Cherry Hospital AWAY from patient's.

  • leahnc Oct 20, 2010

    How much are employees supposed to take? Bernard is a mental patient and they have a lot of strengh when they get angry and strike you. I agree the employee should have been suspended and not fired. He may have been a mental patient but he knew exactly what he was doing when he hit the worker.

  • davido Oct 20, 2010

    Sounds like the worker deserves a more chill job than he had after that hazardous duty!

  • nic Oct 20, 2010

    WRAL should report the statistics for employees injured by assault on the job. The stats are there for each state facility, but nobody seems to be interested in that

  • beachbunny Oct 20, 2010

    Right On MissB!!!

  • molliecjan1 Oct 20, 2010

    they only showed a short clip of video, the only help he had was a female agency ( temp ) nurse who abandoned him and the patient knocked his emergency alarm off him, then it took other staff 5 minutes to arrive. If you saw this type of action everyday at Dix you must have reported it right? IF you saw it as abusive you were legally obligated to report it so you did right?

  • molliecjan1 Oct 20, 2010

    only one of two men in the story are permanently injured- the worker! Meanwhile how many more staff and other patients has the patient assaulted? thats right we dont know cause of all his rights and all but the patients isnt in a state hospital for being Mr congeniality. What we do know is Mr Raynor was never charged by police, because deep down the police know had one of them ( police ) been assaulted in a similar fashion at 3 am alone they would have been able to do whatever it took to defend themselves including mace, taser, flashlight, gun, police dog, backup etc and Mr Raynor did the best he could. The brass including Gov Bev should come from Raleigh and show staff how it should be done and leave the state trooper security detail at home, just show us how to handle violent psychotic patients one on one alone. Raynor lost vision, and maybe his job while the patient was unharmed sure doesnt sound like patient abuse to me

  • gharris2 Oct 20, 2010

    I don't think he should get his job back,He could have gotten some help with the guy. I worked at Dorothea Dix Hospital and I've seen this type of action go on everyday and they just push it under the rug. They need to close Cherry down and keep Dix instead.

  • elatsmith Oct 20, 2010

    this client was considered so dangerous he had an entire ward ( usually reserved for 20 plus patients) to himself. He punched the worker , injuring him permanently, in the early am when the worker had no help. It wasnt pretty but the patient wasnt injured and the employee did the best he could after taking 4 blows to the head and being somewhat dazed. Had the patient killed the employee it probably wouldnt be news, what with patient rights and all. If the patient / son is such a teddy bear then why did mama leave him 600 miles behind and not even check in by phone?