When should an injured suspect be charged? The answer can be costly

Inside the Kent County Correctional Facility.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two suspects in two high-profile crimes are both in the hospital recovering from injuries they received while fleeing from police.

While the suspects are out of commission, the justice system continues to work, which means the county could find itself footing the bill for their health care.

It is common practice that some hospitalized defendants are not arraigned because once they are, state law requires county jails to cover the medical costs of inmates in their care.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker told 24 Hour News 8 Friday that cost is not the main consideration.

“Their care becomes the responsibility of the county because it’s not their choice. They’re not free to do, not free to leave, not free to do whatever they want there,” Becker explained. “How do you get them down to court, how do you do the things you need to do to get them to where their supposed to be for a court hearing.”

But he said suspects’ medical costs can be a factor.

“(It) could put the taxpayers on for quite a bit of money in this day and age, so that’s something we do have to consider when we’re deciding what to do with a specific case,” Becker said.

‘FAIRLY UNIQUE’ SITUATION

Victor Gonzalez, 20, is accused of stabbing a woman on March 9 in the parking lot of the Walker Meijer in an attempt to take her car.

He was shot two days later as he was allegedly trying to run out the back of a Grand Rapids bar, away from police. He has been in the hospital ever since.

Alejandro Torrez, 16, was allegedly leading Michigan State Police on a high-speed chase on the East Beltline when he crashed into another car, killing his 15-year-old cousin, David Torrez, and 21-year-old Calvin College student Tara Oskam.

Alex Torrez also remained in the hospital Friday.

“I can’t think of anytime where we’ve had a situation like that, where two individuals have been in the hospital with possible criminal charges on both of them. That’s fairly unique,” Becker said.

Monday, Gonzalez was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, assault with a dangerous weapon, unlawful imprisonment, and carjacking.

“The county’s going to bear the responsibility because we don’t want somebody in that situation with those charges possibly getting out,” Becker said.

Torrez hasn’t been charged, but Becker says that is because MSP are still completing a difficult investigation.

BALANCING RISK AND COST

Becker said after the investigation is done, he will decide whether to charge the teen.

He said the type of crime matters.

“We’re not going to charge somebody and possibly put the county on the hook for thousands of dollars for a little retail fraud where he took a candy bar,” he said.

But for a serious crime…

“Where there’s public safety involved, we’re going to make that call to try and make sure that they don’t slip through the cracks and possibly get out,” Becker said.

It was a hard learned lesson in Kent County before Becker was chief prosecutor.

In 2013, charges were delayed against Javonte Higgins, who was in the hospital after crashing a stolen car during a police chase.

Higgins walked away from the hospital. Weeks later, he brutally murdered an elderly couple in their home.

“That was something we definitely took a look at, in terms of making much more, quicker determinations in terms of what we’re going to do in those situations and taking a harder look at them, definitely,” Becker said.

Depending on his health status, Gonzalez will appear in Walker District Court for a probable cause exam for the alleged Meijer parking lot attack. He faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted.