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KARE 11 Investigates: Rapes, murders, assaults undercut DHS claim they release mentally ill suspects safely

Part 4 of “The Gap: Failure to treat, Failure to protect” exposes how no one tracks crimes committed after suspects still incompetent to stand trial are released.

Brandon Stahl (KARE11), A.J. Lagoe, Steve Eckert

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In the last five years, 30-year-old Alandes Augustin has been charged with a bevy of crimes, from bank and store robberies to domestic assaults. He is also severely mentally ill. Many of his charges were put on hold or outright dismissed after judges found him mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Then in March 2020 prosecutors charged Augustin with beating his girlfriend and stabbing a man in the chest several times all on the same night. After being found incompetent to stand trial, a judge ordered the Department of Human Services to treat Augustin’s mental illness. 

But DHS would not hold on to Augustin for long, releasing him five months later based on a policy the state agency announced in 2018, records show.

Citing a shortage of hospital beds, DHS said it would release mentally ill patients back to the community when the agency deemed that they no longer needed hospital care – even if they still were not competent to stand trial.

 DHS says such releases – called provisional discharges – are done safely.

“If a person is not able to go back to jail and they’re not able to be maintained safely in the community then we don’t provisionally discharge them,” said DHS Chief Medical Director Dr. Kylee Stevens. “It’s as simple as that.”

Augustin’s case and a host of others show otherwise.