A murder suspect has been missing since Sunday after authorities say he walked away from the hospital while taking a smoke break, said Aiken County sheriffs Capt. Troy Elwell.
Terrance Riley, 40, of Columbia, had been at Medical College of Georgia Hospital since Friday. He was admitted in critical condition after police say he was accidentally shot by a partner during a home invasion in Ridge Spring, S.C.
During the home invasion, Mr. Riley and three other men, including his son, fired shots, and the homeowner, Jerry Tyler, was fatally struck, according to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
It appears that over the weekend Mr. Rileys status was upgraded, said Capt. Elwell, adding that his department wasnt notified of the change in his condition. He was allowed to exit the building and have a smoke break. During that smoke, Mr. Riley evidently decided he no longer needed medical attention to his wounds and left the property.
Richmond County sheriffs Maj. Ken Autry said his department is working with Aiken County authorities on Mr. Rileys disappearance.
Authorities say there were no police guards for Mr. Riley's room, but that it's not uncommon for someone in critical condition to not be under police observation as the hospital is to notify police when the condition improves.
Capt. Elwell said hes not trying to blame the hospital.
On the hospitals behalf, they didnt know this individual had left either, he said. But if we would have received notification at that point (when his condition was upgraded) arrangements would have been made to make sure that Mr. Riley could not leave the location.
Capt. Elwell said that because of Mr. Rileys condition hes still suffering from three gunshot wounds to the upper and lower torso he doesnt consider him a danger. He said he even doubts Mr. Riley was able to move around without a wheelchair.
MCG HOSPITAL RESPONDS
The following is a statement issued today by Alan Sheffield, Director of Safety and Security, MCGHealth:
While I cannot comment on a specific case because of federal and state privacy laws, I would like to comment on our procedures as they relate to law enforcement agencies and patients who may become suspects of crimes or arrested following their discharge from the hospital.
If a patient is a suspect of a crime, but has not been arrested the patient is, not under the custody of police and has the same rights as any other patient in the hospital and are treated the same. Hospital personnel cannot restrict their movements or prevent them from leaving the hospital. To do so would invite possible false imprisonment charges.
It is a different matter entirely if the patient has been charged with a crime, arrested, and therefore under the custody of the police who can then appropriately prevent them from departing from the hospital.
Therefore, we would encourage the police force with jurisdiction in these types of matters to make the appropriate arrest so that an officer may be positioned within the patients surroundings to ensure that their movements are appropriately confined and they do not depart the hospital prior to being medically discharged by a physician.