Patient escapes from psychiatric hospital during group escort, quickly captured

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SEATTLE (AP) —Police say a patient who was with a group being escorted by staff at Washington's largest psychiatric hospital escaped for a period of time on Monday.

Lakewood Police Lt. Chris Lawlor says the patient went missing from Western State Hospital at about 1:45 p.m. The 31-year-old male patient was with a group of about eight patients.

Hospital staff discovered that the patient was missing when they reached their destination.

Lawlor said the 31-year-old male patient "was considered gravely disabled and flagged as a threat to himself and others.  We were also told he was on active supervision from the Department of Corrections.

"WSH Security began a search and the patient had initially been seen in the area of the Steilacoom library and was eventually spotted on Steilacoom/Dupont Road.  He was taken into custody without incident (at 3:05 PM) and returned to the hospital," Lawlor said.

Lakewood Police officers are investigating what happened, "but it appears the patient snuck away during the escort," Lawlor said.

The state Department of Social and Health Services, which manages the hospital, said in a statement:  "We are attempting to fully understand the details of the incident, however what early information we have is that a group of Western State Hospital patients was being escorted from a ward treatment mall to a fenced outside activity area when one of the patients left the group through what we believe was an unlocked door."

Monday's escape follows the April 6 escape of two dangerous patients. One was caught the next morning and the other made it to Spokane and was on the run for two days before being caught.

An investigation by The Associated Press found that there have been 185 escapes or walk-aways from the 800-bed psychiatric hospital since 2013.