Greenwood Police changing policy on guarding offenders in hospitals

Keith Reese

UPDATE: 

Reese Keith was taken into custody on Saturday, May 20.

ORIGINAL STORY: 

GREENWOOD, Ind – Police in Greenwood announced Wednesday that the department will change their policy regarding decisions on whether to leave an officer to guard an offender who has been admitted to a hospital.

The announcement comes after 27-year old Reese Keith allegedly duct taped and robbed an elderly Franklin couple in their own home Monday afternoon.

The burglary happened after Greenwood Police say they left Keith unguarded at Johnson Memorial Hospital following a hit-and-run crash in which Keith was a suspect.

Greenwood Police say officers were attempting to take Keith to jail after he walked away from the crash in a stolen car Sunday afternoon. They say they found Keith with needles in his pockets and drug paraphernalia in the stolen car.  But in the hours that followed, police say Keith suffered two seizures and complained of pain from the crash.

The medical issues resulted in one trip to Community Hospital South and two trips to Johnson Memorial Hospital. Officers never got Keith into the jail to be booked or finger printed.

Upon the second trip to Johnson Memorial, doctors said they would admit Keith overnight for testing. Greenwood Officers stayed at the Hospital with Keith until after 11:00pm.

“The officers then requested and were given permission from the on-duty supervisor to leave the scene and file the paperwork and the charges with the prosecutors office the next day,” said Greenwood Police Assistant Chief, Matt Fillenwarth.

Keith was left unguarded at the hospital. Hospital officials say Keith left his room and walked out of the hospital some time around 4:30 Monday morning.  Franklin Police believe Keith walked a short distance from the hospital to the home of a 90-year old World War Two veteran and his 88-year old wife.

They say Keith hid the couple’s garage for several hours until they left Monday afternoon. When the couple returned about an hour later, Keith was waiting for them in a ski mask, pointing a gun at them. Police say Keith duct taped the man to a kitchen chair and his wife to her own walker. He then took three of their guns and drove off in their 2011 Nissan Altima.

The Nissan was found the next day in Greenwood, but Keith is still at large.

Court records show Reese Keith has a criminal history that includes more than 40 charges, dating back to 2006 in several Indiana counties.  Many of his prior cases involved illegal drug use.

Greenwood Police officials say they had no indication that Keith was a violent offender. They say they unaware of his lengthy criminal history because he gave them several fake names, and officers never got Keith to the jail to be finger printed.

The decision to leave Keith at the hospital without an officer guarding him turned out to be a mistake, police said. One they hope to avoid in the future.

“We followed the practice that we’ve been following for years,” said Greenwood Police Chief John Laut.  “Is it perfect? No, absolutely not.There’s a 90-year old World War Two veteran who’s the victim of a home invasion robbery.”

“This is the first time this has happened,” Laut said. “Policies change, this is a perfect example of why they change. And it will change.”

From now on, Greenwood Police officials say the decision to keep officers at a hospital or have them leave will not be made by a police shift supervisor.

“That call will now go to an on-call deputy prosecutor who then will contact the on-call judge, and the on-call judge can make the decision whether to release a suspect on their own recognizance in cases like this,” Fillenwarth said.

Many such decision will be made on a case-by-case basis, Laut said.  Violent offenders and those with outstanding warrants will always be guarded, police said. But any time there is a question about whether to keep an officer on guard, the new protocol of calling a prosecutor will be followed.

The policy is already in place for Johnson County cases, but will now be extended to police departments.

Reese Keith remained at large as of Wednesday afternoon. Franklin Police believe he may have paid someone to give him a ride to Indianapolis, which is his last known location.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call the Franklin Police Department, or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana.