A worker at a Detroit children’s mental hospital is suing after he was asked to play the role of a gunman in an unannounced active security drill and then arrested by responding police.
Brandon Woodruff, 32, had worked at the site for five months when his supervisor asked him to participate in the December 21 exercise.
Neither the police nor the patients and their families were informed, and many staff were unaware.
“Although the terror, panic and mortification of those trapped inside Hawthorn are real, there were no intruders, there were no AR-15s and there there were no ‘shots’,” the suit reads.
“On the contrary, the State of Michigan created terror and panic at Hawthorn Center as an ill-conceived ‘security’ exercise.
“Even the dozens of law enforcement officers who responded to frantic 911 calls from those trapped inside the building believed there were intruders with military-style weapons; they too were prepared to risk their lives to save the children and adults who tried to protect them.
Brandon Woodruff, 32, a worker at a Detroit children’s psychiatric hospital, is suing for damages after he was arrested at work while participating in ‘an ill-conceived ‘safety drill’
Woodruff’s lawsuit was filed a month after the families and staff filed their own class action lawsuits, seeking damages.
A physical description of Woodruff, a black man soon to be a father, was broadcast when the alert was issued and an unarmed Woodruff was asked to walk through the halls of the hospital, noting how people were reacting.
Woodruff said he was uncomfortable with the idea, but complied.
Yet when he entered the building, he was deeply moved by the terror he saw.
Woodruff was unaware that those in the building were not notified of the drill, according to the lawsuit.
He said The Detroit Free Press she was a woman who sprinted “as if she had run for her life”.
Woodruff added: “It was one room in particular that caught me off guard, one of the living areas.
“It was the way it was barricaded” with mattresses and chairs, Woodruff said.
“I had an uneasy feeling, like maybe these kids think this is real. I will like to leave them alone in this area. They’re probably a little scared and don’t know what’s going on. So, I just left that area and continued.
Those inside Building 911, and sent what they feared were final texts to their loved ones.
A woman whispered during her 911 call, asking a dispatcher, “Are the police there?”
When the dispatcher said the officers were checking things, the caller said, “Please, please, please help me.”
The dispatcher told her to keep calm and that he was there with her.
“I’m so scared,” she whispered.
Police are seen responding to the drill at the Hawthorn Center on December 21
A tearful Woodruff spoke to the Detroit Free Press about the traumatic incident
Upon receiving calls to 911 about an active shooter, officers were dispatched: 22 heavily armed police rushed to the center from Northville and Livonia townships.
Michigan State Police also rushed there.
Upon arrival, the officers quickly seized their tactical weapons and heavy equipment.
Outside the building, two people – including Woodruff – told police it was just a drill.
But they were then told to lie on the ground until the police confirmed their story.
Woodruff, face down, used his smartwatch to call his wife, who recorded what she heard.
According to the lawsuit, Woodruff feared for his life and wanted to make sure his wife heard the final moments of his life.
Woodruff’s attorneys say he “heard the security pull out the police officers’ guns.”
They said, “Mr. Woodruff was scared for his life.”
He hadn’t been told that the police didn’t know it was a drill.
Woodruff (right) was handcuffed, along with a white colleague (left) and held for 30 minutes
The two men are detained during the December 21 exercise
“Woodruff did his best to comply with the police officers’ anxious and sometimes contradictory orders, getting down, then slowly moving towards them with his hands raised, and finally lifting his shirt and turning around several times to show that he was unarmed,” the lawsuit states.
The footage shows Woodruff in handcuffs.
He was kept under police control for at least 30 minutes while the police dealt with the situation.
The drill took place at 10:30 a.m.
At 5:11 p.m., Victoria Petti, the hospital’s manager, emailed staff explaining what had happened and apologizing for “the stress”, saying she accepted it “has had you all touched in different ways”.
Woodruff’s attorneys say the drill was only announced to supervisors in advance, with strict instructions not to tell subordinate employees or children.
On a typical weekday morning, around 50 children and 200 staff are at the center, they said.
“This morning an active intrusion alert was announced on the air system,” Petti wrote.
“Although this is an exercise, it has not been announced as such.
“Understandably many in the building were scared and some contacted 911. A tactical team responded to those calls and arrived armed and in full gear.
“I want to say how deeply sorry I am that this has happened and for the stress it has caused.”
“I spoke with many of you today and hope to join more in the coming days.
“I know this has affected all of you in different ways.”
Woodruff said he has struggled at work since the incident
He is pictured with his baby girl, who was born in February
Two former Hawthorn Center employees said Click Detroit they were left with lasting trauma from the attack.
One said: “After the exercise ended, many children had to be sedated, so they had to call the emergency services for outside hospitals.”
Another explained: ‘I kept crying, tears were welling up in my eyes, I kept shaking, I was shaking uncontrollably,’ said one of the staff.
“It created anxiety, trouble sleeping. Every time it’s mentioned, it’s like reliving the event.
“So every little sound that you hear, that I particularly heard, I was like, okay, are they in the hallway, you know, I really have nowhere to hide that is going to protect me . So I just felt like, you know, this is probably going to be, you know, my last day here.
David Horeine, whose son was a patient at Hawthorn during the exercise, said terrified parents stood between the door and their children, hoping to save them.
He said Click Detroit“But the children were told that if the adults were to fall, the children would have to fight for their lives.”
Horeine said the hospital did not tell them what happened, even afterwards.
“We find out about it on Facebook. The hospital never told us what happened that day.
Horeine, who joined the class costume, called for people to be fired for the exercise.
‘I don’t mince words. So I will say that I think the people who orchestrated this event should be fired. I think it was gross negligence.
Families and staff have filed two class action lawsuits.
One lawsuit targets the state because the Department of Health and Human Services operates the Hawthorn Center, while the other lawsuit focuses on specific hospital staff members who initiated the unannounced active-fire exercise .
The lawsuits seek a thorough investigation by the state attorney general, full liability for what plaintiffs say was a grossly irresponsible decision, and damages.
Woodruff said he struggled to go to work, but needed to support his family.
His lawyer said he sometimes missed work due to distress from exercise, and due to the time spent and a state miscalculation of the military service credit, Woodruff went told that he was not eligible, less than a day’s work, for parental education. leave when her baby was born in February.
His lawyers also said in March that he had been denied a request for mental health treatment.
The initial advice offered by the hospital was ‘half crap’ and no one in the administration apologized.
“There was no transparency about the consequences of this,” he said.
“I feel like they don’t care what happened and they’re trying to play it down and sweep it under the rug because they know we’re about to leave this building. .”
The state health department said it was reviewing the procedures.
The authority said in a statement that it understands “patients, staff and the community have been affected by the December incident.”
“The Joint Commission requires state psychiatric hospitals to conduct a risk vulnerability analysis at least every two years to identify potential emergencies, including active fire drills.
“MDHHS is working with township law enforcement and the Michigan State Police on an enhanced active trespassing training and exercise process as part of its updated security operations policy. ’emergency.”