MANCHESTER — Hillsborough County jail officials are reviewing what happened to an Elliot Hospital psychiatric patient who has been undergoing medical treatment in a Boston hospital for five days after being involved in an alleged assault on an Elliot security guard.
“He is being medically treated and trying to be stabilized so he can be released from the hospital,” Hillsborough County House of Corrections Superintendent David M. Dionne said Monday. He would not identify the Boston hospital, citing security reasons.
Dionne said he hasn’t officially been told the nature or extent of Fern Ornelas’ medical condition.
Dionne said he is conducting an internal investigation and developing a time line of the events that began about 7:25 p.m. when Ornelas, 54, of Manchester allegedly grew agitated, disrupting other patients at Elliot Hospital’s secure psychiatric evaluation unit, which is part of its emergency department.
Ornelas is accused of punching security officer Lawrence Bolduc in the head as Bolduc tried to walk Ornelas back to his room. The two exchanged blows until Bolduc, using pepper spray and with the help of other guards, subdued Ornelas, police have said.
Both men were treated in the emergency room for “significant” facial injuries, police said. Manchester police placed Ornelas under arrest in the hospital emergency department for misdemeanor simple assault, Lt. Maureen Tessier said. After he was medically cleared by the hospital, police brought Ornelas to headquarters about 11 p.m. where he was booked and charged.
“We are aware of no other condition or injury that was sustained while he was in our custody,” Tessier said. He went to Hillsborough County jail on Valley Street where he arrived about midnight Thursday, she said.
“Ornelas was cooperative with the booking process and his short time in our custody was uneventful,” Tessier said.
As part of the jail intake process, Ornelas was seen by a nurse, who noticed “his face was all bruised and puffy,” Dionne said.
While medical staff had “some concerns,” they did not rise to the level to require he be hospitalized, he said.
The nurse checked on Ornelas “some hours later” and she determined, in consultation with a staff physician, that he needed medical treatment beyond what jail staff could provide, Dionne said. Ornelas returned to Elliot Hospital’s emergency department about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Susanna Whitcher said.
“The reason why he was back, I don’t know. He was in serious condition. He was admitted and transferred to a Boston hospital,” Whitcher said.
She would not discuss his case further.
According to Whitcher, Ornelas initially arrived at Elliot’s emergency department Oct. 15.
He was waiting to be transferred to New Hampshire Hospital, the state-run acute psychiatric hospital in Concord.
Dionne said Ornelas remains in Hillsborough County House of Corrections’ custody while hospitalized. Once medically stable, he is expected to be released back to the Manchester jail, then be arraigned in court. He said it’s possible a judge may request a bedside arraignment.
Dionne said Ornelas did not have a roommate during his brief stay at the jail and suffered no injuries while held there.
“No staff members attacked him,” Dionne said.
Ornelas has been a member of Derryfield Country Club for many years, the club’s golf professional Mike Ryan said.
“I just know him to be a regular guy. He came in and played golf — nothing strange about him at all. He (is) a good guy,” Ryan continued, noting he has heard nothing about his medical condition.