A 37-year-old California man has been arrested for allegedly striking a senior citizen to death with an oxygen tank for praying, an incident that occurred while the two men were sharing a room at a Southern California hospital.
Jesse Martinez, 37, was charged with murder and elder abuse late last week for the December 17 incident, which left an 82-year-old man with injuries that he succumbed to the following day, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The Washington Post reports that the elderly man, who was sick with COVID-19, “leaned on his Catholic faith and began to pray” shortly before he was brutally beaten. The two men were both receiving treatment for COVID-19 at the Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California, a region where hospital resources have been stretched thin, particularly with regards to the availability of frontline workers.
Martinez was sharing a hospital room with the victim, who he did not know before entering the hospital, according to authorities. The motive for the attack was not clear, and it is not clear why Martinez became angry when the man started praying. The incident remains under investigation.
“These families were already experiencing a hardship and now this,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris (R) in a statement to The Los Angeles Times. He called the incident “senseless” and said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear about the man’s death.
Martinez will appear before a judge at the Antelope Valley Court on December 28, ten days after the fatal attack. He is being held on $1,000,000 bail at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, reports the Post. It’s not clear whether he has a lawyer or has any prior criminal history.
This is at least the second time an elderly patient has been killed by another hospital patient since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Janie Marshall, an 86-year-old woman who had dementia, was allegedly shoved back in March by Cassandra Lundy, 32, after Marshall reached for Lundy’s IV when she started to lose her balance while wandering around the hospital. The force of getting shoved, said police, knocked Marshall to the ground, where she hit her head, according to The New York Times. She died several hours later from her injuries.
“I was so stunned,” said Marshall’s niece, who took Marshall to the hospital but only found out through news reports about Marshall’s death, reports the Times. “It just tore at my gut that something like this would happen.”
Lundy, who was charged with manslaughter and assault after a coroner ruled Marshall’s death a homicide, told investigators that she pushed Marshall for getting into her “space.”
“We are terribly saddened by this death,” the hospital said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring a safe, health-focused environment in these very demanding times so our heroic health care workers can continue to deliver the quality, compassionate care New Yorkers need more than ever.”