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Police capture UIHC escapee, officials debate responsibility

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | DECEMBER 16, 2010 7:10 AM

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Authorities arrested Anthony Koehlhoeffer Wednesday evening after he reportedly escaped while being treated at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and spent 19 hours on the run.

Hospital and law-enforcement officials remain divided over whose responsibility the patient was once he entered the UIHC.

Davenport police apprehended Koehlhoeffer, 20, in Bettendorf around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, he allegedly assaulted a UI student and took her car, then reportedly carjacked three other vehicles Wednesday.

UI students received a HawkAlert message warning them about an escaped inmate who was "suicidal with violent tendencies" nearly 10 hours after the first incident, leaving many students and UI officials frustrated about the delay.

Details of how Koehlhoeffer was able to escape the UIHC remain vague.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jerry Droz said his department did not leave a deputy at the hospital after taking Koehlhoeffer to the facility Tuesday evening to be treated for undisclosed reasons.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said UIHC staff can't place an individual in custody and a law-enforcement agency must provide a deputy to stay with an inmate if needed.

Under this policy, the decision of whether to supply a deputy to monitor Koehlhoeffer would rest with officials from Jefferson County, where he was incarcerated for allegedly committing numerous felonies. Those charges include first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, and assault on a police officer causing injury, all stemming from two October incidents at Pilot Grove Savings Bank in Packwood, Iowa, and a McDonald's in Fairfield, Iowa.



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But Droz said the escape is not his department's fault because his officers transfered custody to the hospital.

"The problem is the inmate ran, and that's his problem," Droz said. "I don't feel that's our problem or the hospital's problem — he chose to do that."

According to the Memphis Democrat newspaper, Koehlhoeffer has escaped custody twice before.

After consulting with the UIHC's compliance officer and attorneys, Moore refused to divulge any details about how Koehlhoeffer was able to escape, citing federal privacy laws, specifically the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

But several experts said this act does not cover security surrounding a patient — particularly when there's a possible threat to the public.

"It is certainly in the public interest to know what the situation was and what the circumstances of his escape were," said Kathleen Richardson, the executive secretary at the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

According to police, Koehlhoeffer fled UIHC around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, assaulted a female UI student in the Quadrangle Residence Hall parking lot, and stole her car. Officials said the student did not suffer serious injuries, but they would not provide any other information about her condition.

UI junior Ryan Maher said he saw Koehlhoeffer pull out of the parking lot, jump over the median, and fishtail before scraping against a concrete wall and running a red light at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Burlington Street.

"I thought the guy was drunk," the Slater resident said. "But it was kind of freaky because I could have been right in his path."

At 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Iowa City police received a call that a car had been stolen at a convenience store at 2875 Commerce Drive, said Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton.

Less than a mile away, Koehlhoeffer — still wearing a hospital gown, sweatshirt, and flip-flops — reportedly crashed the car into another vehicle at the intersection of Highway 6 and Heinz Road.

A "Good Samaritan" who saw the accident got out of her car to see if Koehlhoeffer was all right, but the escapee reportedly forced the woman to drive him to the Quad Cities, Brotherton said.

Koehlhoeffer was arrested after Davenport officers saw him steal another car, which he flipped less than a mile away.

He was taken to the hospital by ambulance for minor injuries.

UI students, staff, and faculty were alerted of the incident at about 9 a.m. Wednesday — almost 10 hours after Koehlhoeffer reportedly escaped and more than three hours after he allegedly stole the second car.

Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said he would have preferred the HawkAlert message to have been out earlier, but his staff was focused on locating the suspect.

Officials will discuss the system's flaws during an already-scheduled meeting to review HawkAlert early next year, he said.

"I didn't feel the delay was acceptable," Green said. "I would have preferred the HawkAlert to come out earlier."

UI and Iowa City police and Jefferson County officials issued numerous additional warrants for Koehlhoeffer's arrest.


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