FARGO — A memory care patient a caregiver allegedly assaulted at a local facility has died, marking the third time in three years police have investigated the death of a person in the facility's care.

Police arrested 59-year-old Rachel Wede Cooper Wednesday night, Aug. 18, at her home on suspicion of endangering a vulnerable adult, according to a news release issued Thursday by the Fargo Police Department. The Maple View Memory Care employee allegedly assaulted a 78-year-old male patient on Aug. 3 at the 4552 36th Ave. S. facility, police said.

The patient suffered a serious injury during the incident, Fargo police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker said. Investigators learned Thursday morning that the patient died.

It's unknown if the alleged assault caused the death, but an autopsy is being performed to determine if the reported attack played a role in the fatality, Schindeldecker said.

 Maple View Memory Care in south Fargo is seen on Thursday, August 19, 2021, where a patient has died after being assaulted by an employee. David Samson / The Forum
Maple View Memory Care in south Fargo is seen on Thursday, August 19, 2021, where a patient has died after being assaulted by an employee. David Samson / The Forum

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Few details have been released about the alleged assault, and police did not provide more information Thursday. The patient's name won't be released until Friday at the earliest, Schindeldecker said.

The Cass County State's Attorney's Office will determine whether Cooper should face a more serious charge, she added. No charges had been filed as of Thursday afternoon.

Police were called to investigate the incident when it happened. Police did not say why Cooper wasn't arrested until Wednesday.

Past incidents

This is the first time an assault on a patient by a Maple View employee has been reported to the Fargo Police Department, according to police.

Since early 2019, two other Maple View patients died under abnormal circumstances, prompting authorities to investigate.

Maple View resident Donard Thue Jr., 84, died after being punched by another patient, Michael Lyman, at the facility on March 29, 2019. Lyman, who was 70 years old at the time, was supposed to be on 24/7 watch due to a change in medication.

Staff said, according to police reports, that they believed Lyman had gone to bed that night. Video showed Thue opening a door leading to Lyman's room before Lyman came out into a hallway.

The two were standing out of view of staff but down the hall from where employees were sitting at a table.

Thue is shown grabbing and pushing Lyman, prompting Lyman to punch Thue in the face before shoving him. One police report said Thue fell to the ground before Lyman kicked him in the head.

That's when staff ran toward the scuffle. They checked on Thue and determined he did not need to go to a hospital, according to a police report.

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After being found unresponsive the next day in his bed, Thue was taken to Essentia Health, according to police. Doctors determined he was untreatable, a report said. He died in hospice on April 3, 2019.

The fight was not reported to police, and investigators found out about the death from a coroner, who was informed by a funeral home about what happened at the memory care facility.

No charges were filed since Lyman did not have a "culpable state of mind." He died July 17, 2019.

Maple View changed its policies on when to seek medical attention for patients involved in altercations.

Robert McKinnon
Robert McKinnon

Less than two years later, another Maple View resident died after escaping the facility. Police documents detail how Robert McKinnon, 80, walked through an unlocked gate to the facility. Police believe a lawn service company forgot to lock the latch.

McKinnon had a history of walking away from Maple View and another Fargo memory care facility, police reports said. He was allowed to walk in the fenced area behind the building, but he was not being supervised when he walked through the gate, according to one report.

After an extensive search, McKinnon's body was found Oct. 13 in an unlocked vacant office building about a block north of Maple View. He died from environmental exposure and dehydration, according to the Fargo Police Department.

The death was listed as accidental, and no charges were filed in that case.

Citing the fight involving Thue and Lyman, the North Dakota Department of Health conducted an inspection of Maple View in July 2019. No problems were reported at the facility at the time.

A lock on the gate behind Maple View Memory Care is seen April 19, 2021, at 4552 36th Ave. S. in Fargo. It's unclear whether this lock was on the gate when Robert McKinnon walked away from the facility after being let into the gated area. Police reports say a lawn service company left the gate unlocked. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
A lock on the gate behind Maple View Memory Care is seen April 19, 2021, at 4552 36th Ave. S. in Fargo. It's unclear whether this lock was on the gate when Robert McKinnon walked away from the facility after being let into the gated area. Police reports say a lawn service company left the gate unlocked. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

McKinnon's death did not trigger an inspection, with state officials saying no further investigation beyond what police did was necessary. Changes were proposed for Maple View as a result of the incident, but the Health Department declined to discuss those changes.

Maple View also declined to speak to The Forum about McKinnon's death and what changes it made to ensure patient safety.

It's unclear if this death will spark any state investigations, though the Department of Human Services can investigate incidents at memory care facilities that involve deaths.