Brainerd, MN – Sprinklers activate to help control intentionally set fire at behavior health center

A subject allegedly lit her bed on fire and ran away from the behavioral health inpatient unit – also known as the grace unit – at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd, leaving hospital staff scrambling to make sure patients were safe.

Brainerd police and fire personnel were dispatched to a fire alarm at 7 p.m. Monday at the hospital, 523 North Third St., Brainerd. While en route to the alarm, it was reported a bed was lit on fire and it appeared the fire was intentionally set to facilitate an escape from the locked unit at the hospital.

Dr. Pete Henry, chief medical officer of the central region and an emergency room physician at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd, said hospital staff immediately contained the fire and ensured patients’ safety. The locked unit was closed down and 12 patients were moved to other parts of the hospital. Thirteen patients on the telemetry unit and 13 patients from the surgery unit also were moved to different locations to ensure their safety.

Henry said water from the sprinkler system damaged three floors below the behavioral health inpatient unit: the telemetry unit, inpatient surgery unit and the outpatient cardiovascular unit. Henry said the sprinkler system also was damaged during the incident and was repaired about an hour later.

Henry did not know what the estimated cost was from the fire and water damage from the sprinkler system. “It’s too soon to tell,” he said. Henry said all the service areas damaged Monday night at the hospital are up and running, except the inpatient care in the grace unit. Henry hopes the unit will be up and running as soon as possible, but he could not say an exact date. Henry said the dozen patients were moved to another location at the hospital or to another mental health facility in the state.

Essentia Health has two locations for its psychiatry patients, one on the fourth floor at the hospital and another at the Brainerd clinic. The clinic provides outpatient psychiatry services, including psychotherapy, medication management and electroconvulsive therapy services for children, adolescents and adults. “In the meantime we won’t be accepting any new patients,” Henry said of the behavioral health inpatient unit.

Brainerd police received additional information about a suspect and learned the suspect and potentially two accomplices had fled the area in a vehicle. The information about the suspects and a vehicle description was sent out in a state-wide alert. At about 11 p.m., authorities learned police in Becker had located the vehicle and three occupants were taken into custody without incident.

One of the parties involved was identified as a 17-year-old juvenile female from Brainerd. She was arrested and transported to a juvenile detention center in Grand Rapids. The two other individuals were identified as Raegan Sjolund, 18, and Jonathn Erickson, 24. Sjolund and Erickson were brought to the Sherburne County Jail where they are awaiting transfer to the Crow Wing County Jail.

Brainerd police report the juvenile and Sjolund were each arrested for damaging property, escaping from custody and first-degree arson. Erickson was arrested for damaging property and first-degree arson.

This incident will be referred to the Crow Wing County Attorney’s Office for review pending formal charges. The investigation remains ongoing and anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Brainerd Police Department at 218-829-2805.

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