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Woman sues Portland psychiatric facility after alleged attack last summer

According to the lawsuit, on August 9, 2022, Sonya Gonzales was waiting outside Unity, when a man came up behind her and struck her in the head with a 35-pound rock.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Last summer, a man released from a Portland psychiatric hospital allegedly attacked a woman on the sidewalk outside the facility the same day. Now the woman who survived is suing Unity Center for Behavioral Health for $4 million in damages.

On August 9, 2022, Sonya Gonzales was waiting for a ride home when a man came up behind her and struck her in the head with a 35-pound rock, according to the lawsuit. 

Her attorney, Peter Janci, explained that she fell over, hit her head on a concrete wall before she was knocked unconscious and bled on the sidewalk. 

"Unfortunately, no one came to her aid," Janci said on Tuesday. "She was forced to seek shelter on her own and to try to get the attention of security personnel from Unity."

After the attack, Gonzales suffered a concussion and needed 10 staples in her skull. According to the lawsuit doctors later diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to the extent of these injuries, she remains on long-term disability leave. 

According to court documents, Dwayne Anthony Simpson, 40, had just been released from Unity when he allegedly attacked her. At the time, Portland police said the attack was random, but it wasn’t the first time they’ve dealt with Simpson. Court documents show threatening 911 calls a month prior. 

"There are multiple witnesses and police reports that indicate that this individual was making threats. In fact, making very specific threats about wanting to hurt women and wanting to bash someone's head in with a rock. And that's exactly what he did," Janci said. "So the question is, what did Unity or Legacy know about the danger that he posed, and if it was known to them that he was making these types of threats, how did they reach the decision to release him back into the community?"

KGW reached out to Unity for a comment. A spokesperson said in a written statement, "We are unable to comment on pending litigation."

Though feeling fortunate she survived, Gonzales' attorney said she hopes the suit will stop an unprovoked attack from happening to someone else. 

"I think that's a question that a lot of people that live in our community have right now: How are we responding to a larger mental health crisis? My client is very concerned that if there were failures and if there were breaches in in proper protocol that those get addressed, so this kind of thing can't be repeated," Janci said.

Simpson was indicted on charges of assault and unlawful use of a weapon. Court records show he was deemed unfit to stand trial back in January and was committed to the Oregon State Hospital. 

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