FARGO — A Fargo memory care employee has been charged with manslaughter after police alleged she pushed a patient who later died.
Rachel Wede Cooper, 59, appeared Friday, Aug. 20, in Cass County District Court on Class B felony charges of manslaughter and endangering an eligible adult. She was arrested Thursday on suspicion of assaulting Maple View Memory Care patient Gary Pearson at the facility on Aug. 3.
Cooper cried during her arraignment hearing Friday. At one point, she screamed out "no" as charges were read in court.
"I don't know what to say," she said.
Pearson died Thursday at age 78, The Fargo Police Department said this week. A spokeswoman on Friday identified Pearson as the patient.
Police say Pearson suffered a broken hip. Prosecutors alleged the hip injury led to complications that caused Pearson's death.
Court documents alleged Cooper endangered Pearson's life by pushing him and recklessly caused his death. An incident report filed in Cooper's case on Friday details the reported incident at 4552 36th Ave. S. facility. According to the criminal complaint:
Cooper is a nurse who was cleaning Pearson's bathroom at 12:30 a.m. Aug. 3. The two appeared to have struggled over the bathroom door, but Cooper allegedly pushed Pearson with two hands, which caused him to fall backwards, according to video obtained from Maple View.
Pearson, who suffers "extreme dementia," was unable to remember the incident.
Maple View Director Patricia Middendrop told police Cooper wrote a statement that said she heard Pearson fall while she was cleaning the bathroom, which contradicts what video shows.
Middendrop also said staff are not supposed to move residents when they fall, though Cooper helped Pearson up, according to the video.
Cooper later told police Pearson was keeping her from getting out of the bathroom. She then acknowledged pushing him with one arm, and Pearson tripped and fell.
She then helped him into his pajamas and put him into bed, the complaint said.
Police responded around 6:15 p.m. to Maple View to investigate the alleged assault.
Cooper said she has been in Fargo since 2016, though prosecutors said she is initially from Liberia. Cooper denied claims that she had plans to flee to the West African country.
She promised to give up her passport if she was able to make bond. Judge Norman Anderson set Cooper's bond at $5,000, though she can pay $500 in cash.
Attorney Stormy Vickers has been assigned as a defense attorney in Cooper's case.
Cooper, who declined an interview with The Forum, is being held at the Cass County Jail. A background search revealed no criminal history.