Earlier this week, Fusion told the story of Alan Pean, a 26-year-old University of Houston student who was shot in the chest by an off-duty Houston Police Department officer while seeking mental-health treatment at a hospital.
Houston Police say Pean refused to comply with nurses and two off-duty officers who were working second jobs at the hospital as security guards. They say he struck both officers and that he was shot because the officer feared for his and his partner's safety. The case is being investigated by the police department's Homicide and Internal Affairs Divisions as well as the Harris County District Attorney's Office. A spokesperson for the hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, declined to discuss Pean's medical care and said hospital staff "took all appropriate action in a situation with a dangerous patient."
But Pean’s family says he was in the middle of an acute mental-health crisis and needed treatment. They’ve joined thousands of petitioners in condemning any form of violence against patients.
Here Alan’s brother, Christian Pean, tells the story as his family experienced it.
The thing that happened to my brother is really something that should never happen again.
Alan had just moved to Houston [from McAllen, Tx.] a few days prior to the shooting. Wednesday night, he got on the phone with my father and my younger brother Dominick and expressed a lot of concern, saying, "Hey I'm concerned. I'm feeling very anxious. I'm not feeling good. I think I need to go to the hospital. I'm not sure."
He said he wanted us to walk him through this, that he wanted treatment, and we stayed on the phone with him and we tried to talk him through. At some point we lost contact with him on the phone, and he decided that he was going to drive himself to the hospital in the midst of what was likely a break with reality, and an acute mental-health crisis. This had happened once before.
This is late Wednesday night. He drives himself to the hospital and somehow, in the midst of very extreme circumstances, he arrives at the hospital in such a rush that he crashes into multiple cars and wrecks his car outside the emergency department. He's taken into the hospital, and we receive a phone call saying, "Hey, your son is at the hospital," and everyone in the family mobilizes and says, "Okay, we're going to Houston to figure this thing out. Thank God he's okay from this car accident, and hopefully they're treating him for his mental-health crisis."
Alan is there overnight, and I think he is formally admitted into the hospital around 4 a.m., 5 a.m. (Some of these details aren't clear, we're waiting on the medical records.) He gets admitted into the hospital as a patient on the eighth floor. My parents fly in from McAllen, Tx. to Houston around 9 a.m. or so, and they go to the hospital. They speak with Alan. They speak with numerous hospital personnel and they say: "Alan is experiencing symptoms that we know are indicative of an acute mental-health crisis. This happened [before] in 2009. We know, we're very worried, and we want to speak to a physician or someone who can get him something to calm him down and to treat this."
All of my parents’ concerns are dismissed.
This is not much time before the shooting. Meantime I'm texting back and forth with them, planning how we're gonna go ahead. If this hospital is not gonna treat him, we're gonna have to transfer him. We're looking for a potential inpatient mental-health facility.
My parents get a call from the hospital just prior to the shooting. They say, "Hey, we're ready to discharge Alan, he's ready to go." My parents say the same thing they've been saying the whole time. "Listen, we've seen this once before, we don't want him to be discharged. Please give us references for another facility." And the hospital staff says, "Yeah, just come in, he's ready to go." At some point someone says "he's playing games" to my mother. That's a quote.
So my parents start walking over from the hotel to the hospital, and at some point from this short walk from the hotel to the hospital, this situation occurs.
Somebody calls security. These two off-duty police officers encounter my brother, and he gets shot.
By the time my parents get there, it's only a little bit after the shooting at this point. They get there and they see police cars. They hear from other patients, "We think someone was shot here." And they go up and they ask where Alan is, is he still in the hospital, is he doing okay, and somebody from the hospital says, "He's here, but he's not on the eighth floor, he's in the intensive care unit now." And my dad says: "Excuse me? The ICU? You just told me to come pick him up and discharge him." So the hospital staff tells him to wait tight.
Some time passes, at least an hour, maybe more, before somebody communicates to my parents that Alan's been shot.
Eventually nurses come out. Hospital personnel. They tell my parents that Alan got a little aggressive with a security guard. That he was combative and that they shot him.
My parents are shocked. My mom is crying. She can't handle this. Basically in her mind she hears that her son has been killed while at the hospital by a police officer.
My dad asks them where Alan was shot, and a representative points to his chest.
Police come out and repeat the same story, and my father notes that throughout his interaction with these officers they repeatedly ask whether Alan has a criminal record or violent history. And my dad says "No, no. He doesn't have a violent history. He doesn't have a criminal record. I told you guys this was a situation that needed to be controlled. I said he needed help. No one listened to me."
Officers explain that now Alan is detained, and it's very likely he's going to be charged with two charges of aggravated assault against a peace officer, and if they wanna see him, they can. But not inside the room, but from behind the glass. [Alan Pean has now been charged with the two counts.]
Alan is sedated. He's got a gunshot wound to his chest. He's leaking blood from his chest cavity, and he's got a lot of pulmonary contusions.
I'm in New York and I'm by myself there, and I'm in shock. I'm in disbelief. I'm angry and I'm feeling all these things because they tried to kill my brother in my mind. I don't understand how this could happen.
To me it seems like these police officers were put in a situation they never should have been in. Clearly the training to handle a patient who is agitated was not doled out appropriately here. (Editor's note: St. Joseph Medical Center spokesperson Annette Garber confirmed to Fusion that both off-duty officers involved in the incident are hospital employees who have received special training for security in hospital settings, in addition to their police training.)
I can tell you, I'm a fourth year medical student. You hear about patients that become combative all the time. They can become combative or aggressive because of neurologic disorders, or psychiatric disorders. It happens all the time. It's going to happen tonight to hundreds of people.
And nowhere in the medical industry is there anything about using a taser, muchless a bullet, to subdue those patients. That's because it's not in our creed as physicians: "Do no harm."
It's not supposed to happen.
Now, he's on a med-psych unit, and it's actually right next to the unit he was shot in. Right next to it. It's on the same floor. He's rooms away from where he got shot now.
I'm here to be by my brother's side. First and foremost for us is that Alan's gonna make it. We're thankful that he's alive, and so I'm here trying to see him as much as possible, trying to help my parents get through this. We're trying to come together as a family.
Luckily he's gotten a lot better much quicker than what we expected, given the severity of his initial injury. He's up. He's talking, he's walking, he's lucid and coherent right now and he's doing really good. We're happy from that standpoint.
We're trying to get answers as to why this happened. That's what we really care about and it's what Alan wants. He's already expressed it.
He said: "I came here for help, man, I don't know what happened. Why were there guns here? That's crazy."
As told to Daniel Rivero