Patient at Western State Hospital arrested in roommate’s death

A long-term patient at Western Washington state’s psychiatric hospital has been arrested on suspicion of killing his 69-year-old roommate, police said.

Lakewood Police Department spokesperson Lt. Chris Lawler told The News Tribune Tuesday that Lakewood officers were called to Western State Hospital at about 7:15 p.m. Friday after fire crews responded for a report of an unresponsive patient.

Lawler said fire crews requested police after noticing the death looked suspicious.

"We responded and noticed the victim patient had a lot of trauma, indicating not a natural or expected death," Lawler said.

The victim’s 51-year-old roommate was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder.

The victim has not been publicly identified. Tyler Hemstreet, a spokesperson for the state Department of Social and Health Services, said the victim had been a patient at the hospital since 1989. He said the man had been found not guilty by reason of insanity on a first-degree murder charge.

The victim’s roommate had been at the hospital since 2014 on a first-degree assault charge.

Both men were housed in a wing of the hospital reserved for patients found not guilty of a criminal charge by reason of insanity, Hemstreet said. He said the hospital has about 120 patients there under the same circumstances.

"We’re offering support to our staff and other patients throughout the hospital who have been affected by this sad and tragic incident," Hemstreet said. "Our thoughts are with the victim and his family during this difficult time."

The death occurred during a 15-minute window between hospital staff rounds, Hemstreet said.