Patient kills 73-year-old roommate at hospital, police say, leaving family stunned

A beloved grandfather is dead after a patient at College Medical Center in Long Beach attacked him, inflicting serious injuries that eventually killed him, authorities said today.

Francisco Sanchez had gone into the hospital to treat a routine urinary tract infection late last month when the doctors decided to keep him overnight, just to make sure he didn’t have an ulcer causing his abdominal pain, according to his son Ramon Sanchez.

Francisco, 73, was as charismatic and chipper as ever when he arrived at College Medical Center, Ramon said, but when his daughter called to check on him the next day, staffers said he’d been rushed to another hospital, this time in critical condition.

The 37-year-old man sharing a room with Francisco had attacked him on Jan. 31, according to police. The beating was so bad that a nurse found him bleeding to death in his bed, Ramon said.

Francisco Sanchez was severely beaten by his roommate at a Long Beach hospital, police say. Photo courtesy Ramon Sanchez.

According to Ramon, the attacker confessed to the nurse. When police arrived, they arrested 37-year-old Reginald Daniel Panthier. A jail booking log entry identifies him as an unemployed man who lives transiently in Long Beach.

Police said detectives are still trying to figure out why he may have attacked.

A College Medical Center spokesman said he could not reveal what the suspected killer was being treated for. In a statement Tuesday morning, the hospital called the incident “tragic and unforeseeable.”

“The safety and wellbeing of our patients, along [with] the provision of superior care, remain our highest priority,” the statement said. It added that the hospital was fully cooperating with the police investigation.

Ramon said he’s mystified why someone would so viciously beat his father, a friendly and loving man with 24 grandkids and eight great-grandchildren.

“We have absolutely nothing. We don’t know nothing,” Ramon said. “Was it something my dad said that maybe upset him?”

Francisco came to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 1970s, according to Ramon.

“He was the one that taught me about work ethic, respect and being a good human being,” Ramon wrote in an online fundraiser.

Ramon said his father did a litany of jobs, selling oranges door-to-door or working on people’s lawns to support his family until he was about 53.

Francisco Sanchez. Photo courtesy Ramon Sanchez.

Francisco Sanchez. Photo courtesy Ramon Sanchez.

“He just wanted to give us a better opportunity, better life,” his son said.

When Francisco slipped into a coma after the beating, doctors couldn’t save him because of the extensive bleeding in his brain, Ramon said.

The family made the decision to remove him from a ventilator, but Francisco’s body kept working, according to his son.

“He was a fighting man,” Ramon said, but over the weekend it was finally too much: “I was with him when he took his last breath.”

Now the family is waiting for answers.

“I just want to know the truth of what happened,” Ramon said.

Panthier, the accused attacker, has already pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting Francisco and causing him great bodily harm. In light of Francisco’s death, LBPD detectives plan to speak with prosecutors about amending the charges, a department spokeswoman said.

He remains in jail on $1 million bail.

Editor’s note: Sanchez’s family originally said he was found bleeding on the floor at the hospital but said later he was actually in a bed. This story has been updated to reflect that.

Francisco Sanchez. Photo courtesy Ramon Sanchez.

Ramon Sanchez and his father Francisco Sanchez in the hospital. Photo courtesy Ramon Sanchez.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.