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Dallas hospital shooting spurs new bills targeting ankle monitors

Michael Barera
Creative Commons
A fatal shooting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Oak Cliff last fall spurred legislative action from a Dallas-area lawmaker.

State Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas, says the bills can make hospitals safer while making it a felony for people on parole to remove an ankle monitor.

A Dallas lawmaker is pushing new legislation that would tighten restrictions on hospital visitations for people on parole in response to October's deadly hospital shooting in Oak Cliff.

House Bill 3547 is part of a legislative package known as the Pokuaa-Flowers Act, named after two workers at Methodist Dallas Medical Center who were shot and killed in October. The bill would prohibit anyone on parole from visiting a hospital for any purpose other than emergency care unless given permission from a parole officer.

If that permission is granted, the bill says a hospital would face no liability if the person does commit a violent act.

The legislation comes about four months after police say Nestor Hernandez shot and killed Jaqueline Pokuaa, 45, and Katie Flowers, 63, after striking his girlfriend with a gun while she was in the hospital's maternity ward. Hernandez — who state prison officials said was on parole with an ankle monitor at the time — had been granted permission to be at the hospital for his girlfriend's delivery on the day of the shooting.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie García joined State Rep. Rafael Anchía as he unveiled the bills to make hospitals safer and increasing the penalty for tampering with an ankle monitor.
Pablo Arauz Peña
Dallas Police Chief Eddie García joined State Rep. Rafael Anchía as he unveiled the bills to make hospitals safer and increasing the penalty for tampering with an ankle monitor.

The legislative package was sponsored by state Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas, who called the shooting a systemic failure.

"In this instance, law enforcement arrested, law enforcement jailed [him]," Anchía told reporters at a press conference Monday. "It was the rest of the system that really failed."

The package of bills also includes HB 3548, which would increase criminal penalties for attacking some hospital personnel, and HB 3549, which would increase penalties for people on parole who remove an ankle monitor.

"Our hospitals need to be safe havens, and our hospital workers need to be protected," Anchía said.

The legislation was praised by Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who attended Monday's press conference at Dallas Police Department headquarters.

"What's in place now is not working and has cost lives," Garcia said. "This bill is a start to holding our most violent offenders accountable for their actions, and most importantly, a start at saving lives from violent acts."

Steve Love, the president of the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council, said he appreciated the proposed legislation. He also cited a report by the American Hospital Association that says 68% of nurses experience verbal abuse and in some cases physical violence.

"We understand that emotions run high — also, sometimes it's the best day of your life," Love said. "It's kind of a tough balancing act, in many cases, to have the protective measures in place that you need for security, and have a safe environment and haven for people to visit."

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.