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Toronto police capture man who fled psychiatric ward

Toronto Police handout photo of Mitchell Oraa

Toronto EMS located a man who walked away from Toronto East General Hospital's psychiatric ward on Wednesday night, more than 24 hours after he went missing.

Mitchell Oraa, 30, was picked up by ambulance at 8:40 p.m. west of downtown Toronto on Wednesday and taken to Toronto Western Hospital. When he was admitted, hospital staff realized his identity and notified police. Mr. Oraa remains in hospital.

He had last been seen just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday at Toronto East General Hospital's psychiatric ward, near Coxwell and Mortimer Avenues.

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Mr. Oraa came to the hospital voluntarily and was held under the Mental Health Act after an initial assessment, Toronto East General Hospital said in a statement. Under the Act, a physician can order a person to be detained for up to 72 hours if they believe the person is a danger to themselves or others or shows a "lack of competence" to care for themselves.

As Mr. Oraa's treatment progressed, he was issued a short-term pass just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday. When he never returned, the hospital notified police at 2:30 p.m.

Constable Wendy Drummond said police searched for Mr. Oraa under a mental health warrant, which allows police to detain a person and take them to secure part of the hospital for assessment. Mr. Oraa was not in the custody of police before or during hospitalization, according to the hospital's statement.

"Just because you're arrested under the Mental Health Act, it doesn't mean that it's a criminal charge," Const. Drummond said. "[The hospital] is giving us the authority to bring a person who is believed to be in need of care to a facility to get that care."

When he was still missing, Const. Drummond said Mr. Oraa was considered "a danger to himself and to others."

Earlier this year, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair launched a review of how police deal with the mentally ill after a public outcry when officers killed an escaped patient from the same hospital.

In February, 29-year-old Michael Eligon, who was believed to be mentally ill, fled East General wearing only a hospital gown and was found on nearby Milverton Boulevard carrying scissors.

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The Special Investigations Unit said he threatened police. About a dozen officers surrounded him, shouting demands that he ignored, the SIU said. The police watchdog cleared officers in the case.

A coroner's inquest into Mr. Eligon's death was announced in April, but a date has not been set.

Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario's Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, has also ordered her department to review how officers across the province respond to the mentally ill after a string of fatal shootings by police.

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