WRAL Investigates

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

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

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.

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.


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Kelcey Carlson, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
Kelly Hinchcliffe, Web Editor

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