Kenyan caregiver in Minessota accused of slapping vulnerable patient

A caregiver at a Burnsville memory care facility has been charged after police say he smacked a vulnerable resident in the face.

The incident allegedly happened at 11:20 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Emerald Crest Memory Care Center on the 400 block of Travelers Trail East in Burnsville; it was reported Tuesday morning.

According to the criminal complaint, the reporting party said an 85-year-old resident had wandered out of her bed that night, which was typical because of her dementia. A staff member approached the woman and then turned off the lights, and the woman started banging on a table demanding that the lights be turned back on, police say.

At that time, 57-year-old Zephaniah Nyang’au Ontere of Burnsville walked up to the woman and hit her in the face with an open hand, according to the complaint. Ontere then took the woman back to her room.

Police say surveillance video shows Ontere hitting the woman.

According to the complaint, a witness said she had heard two people arguing in the dining room area of the building and heard the sound of a loud slap. She said she then saw Ontere and the victim involved in a “tussle,” so she got between them and escorted the woman back to her room with Ontere behind her.

The witness said she notified her supervisor about the incident after putting the victim to bed.

The supervisor told police that Ontere had been fired over the incident, according to the criminal complaint.

In an interview with police, Ontere admitted to slapping the woman; police say he was apologetic and “begged for forgiveness.”

Ontere has been charged with fourth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. If convicted, he faces up to one year in prison and $3,000 in fines on the assault charge and up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines on the disorderly conduct charge.
The facility released a statement in response to the charges:

Due to privacy concerns we are not able to publicly discuss the details of this incident; however, we take the safety of our residents very seriously and have a no-tolerance policy for abuse. The behavior of the aide in question was egregious and intolerable, and Augustana Care responded swiftly by contacting the family, adult protection and the authorities. The employee was immediately terminated.

Background checks are performed for all employees, and Augustana Care/Emerald Crest trains employees on vulnerable adult issues upon hiring and annually thereafter. Prospective employees are not allowed to begin work here until they successfully complete a background check.

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