‘Dangerous’ state hospital escapee captured in Waikiki

Local News

The hunt for a Hawaii State Hospital escapee came to an end early Tuesday morning.

Authorities say Richard Leibman, 38, escaped from Hawaii State Hospital on Saturday, Jan. 23, at approximately 6:15 p.m. He was considered dangerous, officials said.

According to authorities, Leibman walked out of an unlocked door while the staff was in the process of transitioning another patient. The staff chased him but lost sight when he entered the heavy brush area.

Then, at roughly 1:48 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, police received an anonymous tip that Leibman was in Waikiki.

After a brief chase, officers caught Leibman on Kalia Road fronting the Halekulani and arrested him for escape in the second degree.

“He does have some mental health issues, so we know that is a factor and maybe one of the reasons, but he is court-ordered to the hospital, so this is considered an escape because of his court order,” said Sgt. Kim Buffett of CrimeStoppers.

He remains in custody, pending investigation.

Even though Leibman escaped on Saturday evening, many area residents still had no idea he was on the loose Monday.

CrimeStoppers and the Honolulu Police Department issued an alert for his escape at approximately 1:42 p.m., nearly two full days after it happened.

“Kaneohe has always been a small-town community. Everyone knows each other,” said resident Jennifer Cole. “It would be helpful if they let us know, so that we could pass the word on.”

“I was down in administration. Had I known, I would have asked them about that, but I don’t even know if they know,” said Kaala Carmack, a teacher at Windward Community College. “I don’t know who’s the in crowd of the inner sanctum in terms of this kind of information. I personally think it’s pretty important that we all be kept abreast of this.”

“Definitely, yeah, we’d like to be notified,” said resident Bernard Brown. “We have kids around. They go all over.”

The state Department of Health told us it notified police, the recreation center at Kaneohe District Park, and WCC. The University of Hawaii confirmed security was alerted, and the campus was empty at the time.

Hawaii State Hospital administrator William May says Oahu Transit Services was also notified.

“With potentially dangerous patients that are able to walk around here, why not inform the public?” KHON2 asked.

“I don’t know if it is a ‘why not,'” May replied. “We look at every aspect of the instance here. Is there anything we could have done differently? If there is, then we will get better in those areas, including communicating with the public.

“The hospital’s crowded,” May added. “We are virtually a 100-percent forensic hospital, meaning that all the patients come via court order. This past year, felons were the majority of our admissions for the first time ever. So there are challenges with that. But with that being said, there are miracles occurring at this hospital. There are patients who are getting better, patients who you would not have given a chance to get better.”

“Almost everyone at the facility has a history of pretty severe drug use, which makes them very unpredictable,” said Sen. Josh Green, who serves on the Senate committee on human services.

In a 2014 report, a Senate special investigative committee looking into workplace safety at Hawaii State Hospital said it “is concerned that the Hospital lacks specific procedures to notify the police and alert the public when a patient escapes or elopes from the Hospital.”

The report stated:

While there are procedures to notify Hospital administrators, patient family or significant others, case management workers, and social workers, there are no procedures to notify or alert the public, especially the students and staff at Windward Community College, of a patient elopement from the Hospital. …

In light of the Hospital’s forensic mental health patient census, the Investigative Committee believes that the Hospital has an absolute responsibility and duty of care to the surrounding community in addition to its patients and staff. Accordingly, the Hospital should develop and implement to notify the public, especially Windward Community College, of a patient elopement to expedite the search efforts and ensure community safety.

“I am frustrated we gave them 60-something points that we wanted implemented. Truth is some of these cant be implemented without a new facility, but you can alert the public. You can alert the media,” Green said.

Recognizing the need for improvements, Gov. David Ige said in his State of the State address that the state will invest $160.5 million to build a new forensic mental facility on the Kaneohe property.

But it could be years before that facility is built. “That is anywhere from four to five years, we hope,” May said. “The hospital is crowded. It’s been crowded for awhile. We’re consistently at or above our license capacity.”

The governor also said his administration has budgeted $4.7 million in fiscal year 2017 to cover projected operating costs at the hospital.

May says the community and the state should see some major changes coming soon.

“When I got here, I promised there would be changes,” he said. “I think there are good changes that occurred and yes, I can promise more changes will be coming.”

This is not the first time Leibman has been on the run.

Police captured Leibman nearly one year ago, after he failed to show up for his status hearing at Lihue District Court on Dec. 4, 2014.

He had been staying at Kahi Mohala, a mental health facility on Oahu, but the facility says he left at around that time.

A tip helped officers locate him on Feb. 15, 2015, near the parking lot of Poipu Sands condominium. Police say Leibman attempted to run from police and kicked an officer multiple times while trying to scale a wall.

He was booked on a $10,000 bench warrant, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer.

A trial is pending because Leibman’s mental state is under review.

Court records show he also tried to escape from the state hospital in December, but was stopped just in time.

In 2013, Leibman was reported missing when he and his mother were scheduled to catch a flight back home to Texas.

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