Health Care

No attack prior to VA beating

A police officer at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham was not attacked last year before he beat an elderly mental patient with a nightstick, according to a newly released federal report.

Peter Maroney, a 7-year veteran of the hospital's police force, was fired in April over his actions during the Oct. 28 incident, which left the patient with a fractured right hand, significant bruising and welts on his abdomen.

Maroney has not been charged with a crime and has said he will fight his dismissal. He could not be reached for comment last week.

In an interview in March, Maroney said he responded with force only after the patient struck him.

"He threw a punch and caught me right in the jaw," Maroney said.

Maroney told a reporter that he did as he was trained by the VA. He used pepper spray and struck the patient four times with a baton.

The hospital's internal review of the incident, however, cited security camera footage and the statements of two employees who witnessed the fracas in calling Maroney's account into question.

In the report, which was redacted by the VA to remove the names of the patient and employees, one of the witnesses described Maroney and another VA police officer "Rodney Kinging" the handicapped man, a reference to the infamous 1991 assault of a Los Angeles motorist by law enforcement personnel.

Following the beating, Maroney slammed the patient to the floor, according to the report.

The internal VA review, which concluded in January that Maroney had used excessive force and abused the patient, was requested the following month by The News & Observer under the Freedom of Information Act. The agency refused to provide the report, citing an ongoing FBI probe of the incident.

The report was finally released last month, following the conclusion of the FBI investigation.

Marc Willis, the public affairs officer for the Durham VA, said he could not comment on why Maroney was not charged with assault.

"That's a question for the FBI," Willis said.