Father, son involved in hospital standoff speak to KPRC 2

HOUSTON – Eleven months ago George Pickering II was in a very different place in his life. He was in jail, charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

"I felt hopeless," said Pickering.

In January, Pickering grabbed a gun, marched into Tomball Regional Medical Center and became locked in an hours long stand-off with police. During interviews with police, hospital staff told officers Pickering threatened them.

Pickering's son, George Pickering III, was in the critical care unit on life support. Pickering said his son  had a history of seizures but in January suffered a massive stroke.

"They were saying he was brain dead, he was a vegetable," said Pickering.

Hospital staff told police they were concerned about Pickering’s behavior because earlier in the day he was highly intoxicated and belligerent. Hospital staff said Pickering's ex-wife and his other son were placed in the position of making decisions for George Pickering III.  The hospital then ordered something called a 'terminal wean,' a process that slowly removes life support. Hospital staff even notified an organ donation organization that Pickering's son was an organ donor.

"They were moving too fast. The hospital, the nurses, the doctors," said Pickering.

Pickering admits to be being drunk and aggressive that night, but said he was certain there was still life left in his son. He said he faced a similar situation once before with his son and he recovered.

"I knew if I had three or four hours that night that I would know whether George was brain dead," said Pickering.

"Why did you feel that going and getting a gun and threatening people was your only option at that point?" asked Channel 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

"At that point I had blinders on. All I knew I just needed to have this time with George," said Pickering.

While Pickering initially had a gun he was quickly disarmed by his other son. However, Pickering lied about having a second gun.

"I said, 'I was in the Boy Scouts, you think I only have one gun?'" said Pickering.

Pickering then closed a curtain to conceal himself and his son. SWAT officers tried to negotiate his surrender, but Pickering wouldn’t budge. Pickering said during the standoff he got the signs he was hoping to see.

"During that three hours, George squeezed my hand three or four times on command," said Pickering.

After hours of negotiations, police used a robot to throw back the curtain concealing Pickering and his son. Pickering then surrendered peacefully.

"There was a law broken, but it was broken for all the right reasons. I'm here now because of it," said Pickering’s son, George III. "It was love, it was love."

It wasn’t until several weeks after the incident that Pickering’s son said he learned his family was told he was unlikely to recover from his stroke and coma. Pickering said he still has people come up to him and say, "I thought you dead."

"It's the duty of a parent to protect your children and that's all he did," said Pickering’s son. "Everything good that made me a man is because of that man sitting next to me."

As for the criminal charges against Pickering; one charge was dismissed and the other lessened to a state jail felony. Pickering was given credit for the time he served in jail and was released this month.

"This case has always been about a father protecting his son, when his son couldn't protect himself," said attorney Phoebe Smith, Pickering’s defense attorney.

With the criminal case now over, father and son say all they want is to live peaceful lives.

"The important thing is I'm alive and well, my father is home and we're together again," said Pickering’s son.

When asked for a response, officials at Tomball Regional Medical Center sent a written statement:

"We appreciate the opportunity to be included in your story. Physicians use their medical knowledge and experience to develop a patient’s plan of care and these actions save lives each day. When a patient’s condition makes them unable to participate in their own care, the appropriate substitute decision-maker has the right to decide whether or not they will move forward with a recommended care plan. However, that decision must be expressed in a way that does not endanger other patients or caregivers. Due to strict privacy laws, we are unable to comment about individual patients, but we encourage you to contact local law enforcement for a complete picture of the events that took place."


About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”