I-Team: Disabled Men Forced to Fight, Parents Say - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Disabled Men Forced to Fight, Parents Say

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Jakob Bluel with injuries to his face. Jakob Bluel with injuries to his face.
Oscar Morales with injuries to his face. Oscar Morales with injuries to his face.
Desert Regional Center in Las Vegas. Desert Regional Center in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS -- Parents of adults with disabilities staying at a Las Vegas hospital said employees force patients into a fight ring.

The parents shared photos showing their sons with chipped teeth, facial lacerations and bruises all over their bodies.

Desert Regional Center said the injuries are the patients harming themselves, but the patients and their families tell a far different story.

They claim hospital orderlies are out of control, forcing developmentally disabled and autistic men to fight for the sake of watching it.

A warning: many of the images you're about to see are graphic.

Oscar Morales Jr., bloodied and bewildered, looks with pain into his father's cell phone camera.

Oscar, who is autistic, lives at Desert Regional Center on Charleston and Jones boulevards.

For nearly 50 families, the hospital is the only choice for loved ones with severe developmental disabilities.

Oscar Morales Sr. said the hospital never called about his son's August 2012 injuries.

He insisted on visiting his son.

"I ask them right away, ‘Where's my son, where's my son, where's my son? I need to see my son. Why you don't call me?'" Morales Sr. said. "They say, ‘We don't call you because Oscar is, is, something's wrong.'"

The next month, police responded after Oscar's father discovered his son lost part of his front teeth.

The police report indicates that Oscar was kicked in the mouth by a fellow patient and friend, 27-year-old Jakob Bluel.

Jakob has Asperger's syndrome. His parents became worried after taking pictures of their son's black eye and bruises.

Jakob told police that staff egged on the fights.

Because the hospital does not allow non-family members to speak with patients, the I-Team went undercover on hospital grounds during a parental visit.

Jakob names staff members and accuses them of staging fights.

"One day when it was Kyle and Harry walking, I was afraid hiding in my room," Jakob said. Kyle was like, ‘Jakob, Brian wants to talk to you. He's mad at you. He said something about your girlfriend. Now come out and stick up for yourself.'

"I said, ‘I don't want to do that. I don't want to get hit.' And then he said, ‘OK.' Kyle closed the door again. I heard Kyle whisper, ‘Harry, Jakob doesn't want to come out and fight.' And then Harry said, ‘I've got a plan,' and I heard Harry say, ‘I guess you're going to miss your snack then, Jakob.' I thought I was coming out to get a snack because I thought, Harry said it's time for snack, so I came out. Brian went around the corner and gave me a black eye."

Desert Regional Center would not allow the I-Team to speak with the staff members in question.

Instead, the deputy administrator of mental health and developmental services denied any cases of abuse.

Reporter: I'm going to show you some pictures. They are of patients here. How can this happen. Is this from self-injury or is this, as the parents allege, from abuse?

Michele Ferrall: It can certainly happen from self-injury. What we would call self-injurious behaviors.

Reporter: Does that happen often?

Ferrall: Well, we do serve a very complex clientele on this campus.

Jakob and Oscar's parents filed state complaints. A state investigator interviewed patients and staff and declared no evidence of abuse.

The parents said this follows a pattern. They say their disabled children don't tell people in authority the full story of abuse.

But even when patients told officers -- according to a police report - no further action was taken.

Attorney Adam Graff, who represents the patients' parents, said he is dumbfounded.

"I don't know how it could be reported that way," he said. "My client told me he was standing there and he watched Jakob tell the police this is what happened."

Jakob's father, Peter Bluel, said, "They intimidate all the boys over there. If you tell anybody anything that they don't like, they'll take away all your privileges. They won't let you call, they won't let you do anything."

Since Desert Regional Center is the only place offering state-sanctioned care to these vulnerable adults, their families said they feel there is no other option and will keep their loved ones in a facility they've grown to mistrust and fear.

Since the I-Team began its investigation, Jakob and Oscar were moved to other residential units at the hospital.

Their families said they have not noticed their sons suffering from any additional physical injuries, but said their parental visits are now severely limited.

According to Desert Regional Center, the hospital cannot comment specifically on an individual patient's treatment plans.

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