A 39-year-old Robbinsdale man with a long criminal history has been charged with scaling a fence on North Memorial Health Hospital property and shutting off oxygen to the entire hospital, creating a situation that an on-site engineer feared could have turned deadly for multiple patients.
Larry D. Raduenz Jr. was charged Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court with first-degree property damage in connection with the incident on Dec. 27 at the hospital in Robbinsdale.
He appeared in court Thursday and remains jailed in lieu of $20,000 bail. A message was left with his attorney seeking a response to the allegations.
“It is shocking that an individual would take a step like this to endanger the lives and wellbeing of innocent and hospitalized people,” County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “We will pursue other charges if evidence supports us doing so.”
According to the felony criminal complaint and other court documents:
Raduenz entered the hospital atrium at 6:16 a.m. and unplugged a security monitor displaying his face. Surveillance video showed him five minutes later approaching a fenced area near the oxygen tanks.
He climbed the fence, broke metal clasps and zip ties, and shut off the oxygen.
Hospital engineers quickly detected a pressure drop in the hospital’s oxygen levels, spotted the vandalism and restored service.
One engineer said that “they were happy to find the problem fast,” the complaint read.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case, “It was noted by hospital [engineers] that had the incident occurred at a time when the hospital did not have 4 engineers on, that the act could have resulted in serious harm or death to patients.”
Hospital spokeswoman Katy Sullivan explained that staff engineers are “continuously monitoring the hospital environment — from temperature to humidity to oxygen levels. If any of these systems move out of a predetermined acceptable range, they quickly act to identify the cause of the problem and fix it.”
The oxygen system has “several backup systems, [and when] our engineers noticed the oxygen system pressure moving below the desired range, they quickly identified the issue and corrected it,” Sullivan said. “They did this so effectively and efficiently that none of the backup systems even needed to be activated.”
She likened the scenario to being “somewhat similar to getting a small nail in a car tire. The tire slowly loses pressure, but the car can still be driven for a period of time.”
Raduenz was arrested Wednesday morning at a homeless shelter in St. Paul. He acknowledged being angry at the hospital for some unspecified reason, according to the complaint, and added that he may have tampered with the oxygen tanks. Raduenz also was seen at other times in the hospital over the previous month unplugging computers and televisions, the complaint noted.
Raduenz has also been charged in Stearns County on suspicion of tampering with Xcel Energy meters 250 times. He was sentenced in September to 90 days jail on one count of misdemeanor fourth-degree damage to property, but he was required to serve only 18 days and put on probation for year.
Court records in Minnesota show a long criminal history for Raduenz stretching back to when he was 19. He’s been convicted twice for drunken driving, and also for criminal damage to property, domestic assault, drug possession, disorderly conduct and theft.