WILD AT HEART

The Colliers wondered whether the center's rigid set of rules was the best way to handle their son, but Mike chose not to challenge the center on it. "I figured, maybe what Casey needs to learn is to follow the rules," he says.

Rose found the regulations more bothersome. For example, water had always terrified Casey--in part, she believes, because of his experience as a youngster being held in a toilet. In addition, she says, swimming aggravated his asthma. "But they told him, `You will swim or else.'"

Forcing him to stay alone in his room or placing him in isolation areas known as "quiet rooms" became a common method for dealing with Casey. His treatment program required that repeated misbehavior be followed by periods of "complete social isolation," meaning he was not permitted any contact--including verbal or written communication--with his peers. Copies of his logs from Cleo Wallace show that center staff confined Casey to his room for days on end.

Casey's stubborn streak led him to refuse his medication, as well. Doctors had prescribed lithium, Rose says, but Casey refused to take it.

In October or November some of the other patients accused him of "being sexual" with them. A Westminster police report says that detectives investigated allegations against Casey and indicates that he was charged with two counts of third-degree sexual assault. Rose says that no charges were filed, and that Casey had only been engaged in "horseplay."

On December 8 Casey became angry at a Cleo Wallace staff member and refused to "sit out," or take a sitting position and face the wall. He swore and ran out of the room. He began struggling when staffers tried to escort him to the quiet room. They had to perform a "takedown"--a physical hold in which a staffer falls backward onto the floor, forcing the patient to fall on top of him. The employee then holds the patient until he or she is calm. It took five people to subdue Casey that day, according to facility logs.

On December 17 Casey verbally threatened the staff. On December 20 he stood on a stair banister and yelled at staff members. The coroner's report noted both incidents. By this time he had become so difficult to manage that the center assigned a "one-on-one" counselor to stay with him all day, even sitting with him at mealtime.

Hours after Casey's death, his one-on-one couselor, Kevin Smith, talked to Westminster detective Mike Lynch about the events of December 21. Smith, who did not return phone calls from Westword, told the detective Casey was agitated all morning long. A staff member had denied Casey's request to go to the movies that day, which made Casey angry. "But [it was] nothing out of the ordinary," Smith told Lynch. "He is usually pissed off for one reason or another." Casey remained calm enough, however, to work on his school assignments in the library.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Smith told the detective, he went to use the telephone, and Casey seized the opportunity to leave the library and walk down the hall of the administration building. Teacher Tammie Brink spotted him wandering around.

When Brink confronted Casey, she told detectives, Casey became argumentative. She told him to sit out, facing the wall. He hestitated for a moment, then sat down on the floor near the library doorway. He continued to move around, though, which violated Cleo Wallace rules. Brink told him that if he did not perform his sit-out properly, he would have to go to the quiet room.

At that point, says Smith, Casey stood up. Brink then left to get teacher's aide Bruce Nipper, so he could "escort" Casey to the quiet room. "I don't give a fuck what you're going to do," Smith quoted Casey as saying, "but I am not going to the quiet room." Casey then pulled off his jacket "and was ready to fight, basically," Smith said.

According to a transcript of Smith's talk with Lynch, he was trying to calm Casey when Brink returned with Nipper. When Casey allegedly balled up his fists, Nipper grabbed one of his arms and Smith grabbed his legs. Nipper wrestled Casey to the floor as Cleo Wallace had taught him, but when they fell to the ground, Nipper found himself pinned to the wall. Casey then began pulling Nipper's hair and thrashing about. Four other staffers eventually joined in the fray as Casey continued to struggle. It became such a jumble of bodies that one female employee hung onto Nipper's feet, thinking they were Casey's.

"Casey was continually prompted to calm down, stop yelling and struggling so that staff could let up pressure on his arms and legs," Nipper wrote in a report of the incident. Several staff members told the police that at one point, Casey complained that he couldn't breathe. He then said that he was "chilling," or calming down.

Six staff members rolled Casey over onto his stomach and held him there. Three of them lay across his midsection. Nipper crouched over Casey's head; his face was touching Casey's. Smith had Casey's legs. Another man held an arm. It was "not a regular textbook management," teacher Matthew Dudek told police. At six-foot-five and 210 pounds, Casey was simply "too big" for that.

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