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Thursday, April 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Documents: Escaped psychiatric patient had planned bombing

By Martha Bellisle Associated Press

SEATTLE – A patient accused of torturing a woman to death before escaping from a troubled Washington state psychiatric hospital earlier this year also had a fascination with the Islamic State group and planned to blow up a state building, newly released documents revealed.

Detectives who investigated Anthony Garver’s escape from Western State Hospital south of Seattle also found that he had threatened to kill a federal judge and previously was caught with bomb-making materials.

Despite an extensive criminal history and a pattern of evading authorities, Garver lived in a ground-floor room, where he spent five months loosening his window frame before escaping through it April 6 with another violent patient.

It took almost two hours for hospital officials to report the escape to Lakewood police – a delay that concerned officers and detectives working the case, according to police reports acquired by the Associated Press.

Garver’s head-start allowed him to hop a bus across the state to Spokane, where he used self-described survivalist skills to hide from authorities for two days. He was finally caught hiding in the woods near his mother’s home – the same area where he was found with dozens of rounds of assault-rifle ammunition in 2006.

The other patient was found in a nearby city the next day.

The high-profile escapes came at a time when the 800-bed hospital already faced federal scrutiny over safety violations and struggled with high rates of patient assaults. The agency that oversees the state’s mental health system also has been the target of lawsuits over failing to provide timely competency services for mentally ill people charged with crimes.

The state has accrued about $1.5 million in fines by state judges, who held the agency in contempt of court for failing to conduct mental health evaluations in a hospital or treatment that could allow a defendant to stand trial. A federal judge followed suit last week and ordered additional fines of $500 to $1,000 per day for each patient who is forced to wait more than a week for services.

The Department of Social and Health Services didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the way the hospital handled the escapes. The head of the agency released a statement Monday saying it was disappointed with the recent contempt order and believes it has made significant improvements.

Garver, 28, was released last week from a federal detention center, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman said. He was there for a mental competency evaluation. Garver was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Monday afternoon, according to the jail roster. A federal hearing on his evaluation is set for Aug. 11 in Spokane.

After his escape, police discovered Garver was a serious public safety threat.

“Garver was reported to be ‘very smart,’ and had tried to learn Arabic in the past, as he had a fascination with ISIS,” Officer Ken Devaney wrote in a report. “He had disclosed wanting to live in the woods, and having a ‘survivalist’ nature.”

The federal government had a warrant for Garver “because of a charge for threatening to blow up a state building and threatening to kill a federal judge and prosecutor,” Devaney said. And during a previous arrest, Garver “had bomb making materials in his possession.”

The documents don’t reveal his targets but give more details about the escape. Garver’s psychologist, Dr. Mallory McBride, said Garver’s roommate knew about the plan.

“Dr. McBride thinks that over the past five months, Garver slowly worked the window open until he could jump out,” Devaney said. “This theory was confirmed when that same patient said he felt a draft in the room and the draft got stronger in the past few weeks.”

Devaney asked the doctor how the staff failed to realize the window was loose.

“Dr. McBride said you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you physically check the window, which staff doesn’t,” Devaney wrote.

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