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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eastern State Hospital employees allege supervisor assaulted patients

Two Eastern State Hospital employees filed a lawsuit this week alleging that one of their supervisors repeatedly assaulted patients and then retaliated against them when they reported it.

Jered Bonneau and Cheryl Rector allege in their lawsuit that nursing supervisor Molly Okoli hit, threatened and kicked patients on multiple occasions. The suit was filed against Okoli and the Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees Eastern State, for failing to act on their reports.

The lawsuit states that Okoli slapped a restrained patient in the face, tackled a patient and hit her repeatedly and shoved a patient up against the wall with her forearm across the patient’s throat. In the last instance staff members reported having to restrain Okoli as she tried to continue her assault, the lawsuit said.

Bonneau states in the lawsuit that he put himself between Okoli and one of the patients she assaulted, absorbing several blows meant for the patient. He also states that Okoli placed an official reprimand in his file as retaliation after he reported the assault, as required by state law.

Rector says in the lawsuit that after she also reported the assaults, Okoli locked her in a seclusion room with a patient, leaving her vulnerable to assault from the patient.

Both Bonneau and Rector are identified in the lawsuit as mental health technicians at Eastern State.

Attorney Andrew Biviano said he got corroborating statements from several other employees who also witnessed the assaults that Rector and Bonneau reported. Some of those employees also said they reported Okoli’s actions.

Biviano said Bonneau and Rector tried to follow internal reporting procedures to address the issue but now believe their only option is the lawsuit. He said the two are putting their careers on the line by suing their employer, but feel obligated to protect the patients at Eastern State Hospital.

“Their primary objective by far is to bring attention to what’s going on,” he said.

Biviano said he believes Okoli is still employed by Eastern State. A DSHS spokesman did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.