Elderly man beaten at mental health facility dies

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 20, 2013

WARREN — An 80-year-old man allegedly beaten by a fellow patient at a Warren mental health facility has died and police say they are exploring an amended charge in the case.

Deputy Commissioner Louis Galasso of the Warren Police Department said the beating victim, Albert Potter, of Chesterfield Township, was removed from life support at Royal Oak’s William Beaumont Hospital Feb. 6 and passed away the next day.

Dajuan Whitlow, of Canton, 23, was previously charged with assault with intent to murder and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before the case will proceed.

“We are meeting with the prosecutor’s office tomorrow morning to discuss amending the charge from assault with intent to murder,” Galasso said Feb. 12. “Now that it has come to a certain element of finality, we will certainly be exploring other avenues relative to this investigation.”

Galasso and Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green previously questioned how Potter and Whitlow came into contact with each other at the Behavioral Center of Michigan on Ryan, a 24-hour psychiatric care facility for adults with acute psychiatric conditions.

Whitlow was reportedly transferred to the facility from a hospital in Wayne County after he was admitted following an incident at his family’s home in Canton.

Attorney Terry Dawes, representing Potter’s family through Geoffrey Fieger’s law firm, said Potter was voluntarily admitted to the Behavioral Center of Michigan for treatment Jan. 16 after he became depressed.

“The plan was to get him feeling better and go to stay with his wife, who recently was moved into an assisted living facility,” Dawes said. “Part of his depression was that they were separated. They were together over 50 years.”

Dawes said Potter had responded well to treatment and was due to be discharged from the center Jan. 28, the day after the beating.

“Early that Sunday morning (Jan. 27) Mr. Whitlow was admitted, apparently unattended or unmonitored for a period of time,” Dawes said. “That allowed him to get access to Mr. Potter’s room and just savagely beat him for a lengthy period of time.”

Messages left with Behavioral Center of Michigan CEO Ryan Gunabalan seeking comment were unreturned Feb. 14.

Whitlow remained in custody at the Macomb County Jail on a $500,000 cash or surety bond pending a forensic psychiatric evaluation and a decision about an amended charge.

Defense attorney Todd Russell Perkins, hired by Whitlow’s family, said earlier this month that his client “doesn’t appreciate the circumstances that bring him here,” and that there is “a clear indication of some psychiatric issue that needs to be uncovered.”