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Paralyzed man, family won't comment on AG's report over how he was injured

Staff Report
April 10. 2014 7:47PM


MANCHESTER — A day after the New Hampshire Attorney General's report said an investigation showed no basis for criminal charges in the treatment of a city man who is now paralyzed, Fern Ornelas and his family did not wish to comment.

The report by Deputy Attorney General Ann M. Rice and Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance addressed only whether Ornelas' injuries were the result of criminal action.

Ornelas was not taking calls Thursday at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center were he is being treated, and Ornelas' brother, John, said he didn't want to comment, nor did his sister.

"They're covering up," said William Gosselin, a friend of Ornelas who lives in the Cilley Road apartment building where Ornelas' brother, John, lives. He said he has no faith that authorities will address the matter.

"Unfortunately, I don't think they're going to do anything about it. It's a big coverup if you ask me."

According to the report, Ornelas was taken to the Elliot Hospital by his sister, after the officer who responded to Ornelas' single car accident Oct. 16, 2013, said he was acting oddly at the scene.

The report says the investigation showed Ornelas' first physical confrontation was in the Psychiatric Evaluation Program Unit, where he was awaiting transfer to the New Hampshire State Hospital. Family and friends have said Ornelas has a mental illness and normally takes medication. His brother has said that at other times the Elliot has been able to handle his brother without trouble.

The AG's report say that starting at about 7:15 p.m. Oct. 16, Ornelas's behavior reportedly alternated between serious aggression toward others at the Elliot, calm confusion and cooperation at the Manchester Police Department, and violent, potentially self-injurious behavior at the Valley Street Jail, which resulted in him being put into a restraint chair.

But starting with a 7:30 a.m. check by a nurse at the jail, Ornelas' responsiveness began to deteriorate and that deterioration accelerated until at 8:45 a.m. Oct. 17, he was "unresponsive, his pupils were not at all reasctive to light and he was getting cool to the touch." Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, so 911 was called and he was transported first to the Elliot, where a CT scan reveal a fracture at trhe C4-C5 level.

The report said the CT "also revealed finding consistent with an existing medical condition that results in higher susceptibility to spinal fractures with minor trauma."

The report also said that because of the unnamed medical condition, the timing and cause of his injuries "cannot be established with any certainty."

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