A California in-home nurse is accused of child abuse after camera footage appeared to show him shoving, hitting and then kicking things at a 6-year-old boy with special needs.
Oscar Felix, a vocational nurse with more than a decade of nursing experience, was arrested late Tuesday on suspicion of felony child abuse after the boy's mother reported what police have called "troubling" scenes that she captured on a nanny cam, Santa Ana police spokesman Anthony Bertagna said.
"It's unacceptable," Bertagna told The Washington Post. "It's concerning that when you have a child who cannot communicate and you, as a parent, entrust this professional to care for your child, this is not the type of action that you would expect."
Police released the video, which they say showed Felix, from Orange, ignoring the young boy Friday before incidents in which he aggressively pushed the child out of his lap, hit him with a backpack, pinched him and kicked what appeared to be small toys at the boy's face as he lay on the ground.
Bertagna said that in the video, Felix "wasn't giving any attention to the child" who needs constant care.
When the child tried to reach out for attention, Bertagna said, Felix pushed him away. He added that when the child became frustrated and threw things, the 54-year-old nurse got up and started "physically assaulting" him.
In interviews with police, Bertagna said that Felix made "incriminating statements" and was arrested, though Bertagna said the district attorney will decide what, if any, charges to pursue.
Felix posted bail and was released Wednesday, according to online booking records. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
Bertagna said the 6-year-old boy suffers from a genetic condition called Charge Syndrome, which is characterized by a wide range of abnormalities including heart defects, vision and hearing problems, trouble breathing and swallowing, and developmental difficulties, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Bertagna said that the boy requires round-the-clock care - he cannot hear or speak, he has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old and requires the use of a feeding tube and tracheotomy tube.
According to the state Department of Consumer Affairs, Felix has been licensed as a vocational nurse since late 2005 and certified in intravenous therapy. His license, which is still active, expires December 2019.
Felix started working as the child's nurse in August through a health-care company called Maxim Healthcare Services, Bertagna said.
Over the past several weeks, the child's mother told police that she had noticed that her son was becoming very aggressive with her, and she knew something was wrong, Bertagna said. He said the mother called the health-care company and requested another nurse but was told it would take some time. When the child's aggression continued, he said, the mother set up a nanny cam Oct. 27.
Maxim Healthcare Services said in a statement Thursday that Felix no longer works for the company.
"The care and safety of our patients is our highest priority," a spokesman for the company said in a statement to The Washington Post. "Immediately upon learning of this incident we suspended the employee and initiated an investigation. As a result we have terminated the employee and notified the California Board of Nursing.
"We have fully cooperated with the Santa Ana Police Department in their investigation thus far and will continue to lend our full cooperation."
Bertagna, with the Santa Ana Police Department, said that the question is whether the 6-year-old boy in Santa Ana is the only victim.
"Has he had other physically or mentally handicapped children he's dealt with?" Bertagna said. "And are there other victims out there?"