Forks man charged in state hospital ruckus

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LAKEWOOD — The trouble started Monday when a patient at Western State Hospital reportedly set his mattress on fire, forcing the evacuation of Ward F-8.

Order disintegrated after that.

Pierce County prosecutors say the patient, Timothy J. Rohn, swiped a security badge, opened a locked door, barricaded himself in a utility closet full of cleaning chemicals and threatened to set off an explosion while a SWAT team tried to talk him down.

Rohn, 47, faces charges of felony harassment. Instead of a hospital bed, he’s detained at the Pierce County jail without bail.

Fire is part of his history.

In 2005, Clallam County prosecutors charged Rohn with second-degree arson. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and transferred to Western State in Lakewood, according to court records.

The second-degree arson charge stemmed from Rohn’s allegedly using a BIC lighter to start a trash can fire at the Forks post office, 61 Spartan Ave., on July 22, 2005.

Two witnesses and a Forks police officer saw Rohn, who lived in Forks at the time, standing outside the post office as the small fire burned, according to court documents.

Rohn initially denied knowing anything about the fire to a Forks police officer but admitted a day later in a tape-recorded statement that he had set the fire, according to court documents.

In 1988, he was convicted of fourth-degree assault after an incident that involved an attack with unidentified corrosive chemicals.

Monday’s fire and the resulting incident are part of an ongoing internal investigation, said Kris Flowers, hospital spokeswoman.

Officially, Rohn hasn’t been charged with starting the fire, but a patient from the same ward called The News Tribune on Tuesday and said Rohn was responsible.

Flowers said Rohn’s alleged culpability is part of the ongoing investigation.

The ward held 30 patients, all in the hospital’s forensic unit — the section for patients linked to prior criminal acts. All were moved to other sections of the hospital, Flowers said.

No one was hurt. The damage — chiefly from smoke and water — will take two weeks to clean.

Charging papers describe Rohn as a “high-violent offender.”

At some point, he picked up a butter knife, bent it into a hook and taped it to a crutch, saying, “This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for killing, and this is for fun.”

While barricaded in the utility closet, Rohn referred to the volatile chemicals inside.

“If you mix sulfuric acid and bleach, do you know what you get? A bomb!” Rohn told officers on the other side of the door. “You better get out of here!”

A bomb wasn’t precisely right — more likely, the mixture would produce potentially lethal chlorine gas — but Rohn kept talking about mixing other chemicals, including bleach and ammonia, another nasty combination, charging papers say. Police wore gas masks during the standoff.

Hospital staff members told officers that Rohn was highly intelligent, capable of following through on his threats, charging papers state.

Eventually, officers convinced Rohn to surrender. It took about 10 minutes for him to remove all the items he’d stacked against the door. Police found the security badge and the crutch with the butter-knife hook.

The next step for Rohn is a hearing to test his competency to stand trial, scheduled for July 18.

Last modified: July 04. 2013 6:07PM
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