Barbara Dawson’s death is being investigated by three Florida state agencies; investigators will give their findings to the state attorney, who will decide whether further action is needed.
State officials in Florida are investigating the death of a 57-year-old woman who was removed from a hospital by a police officer last month and then spent about 20 minutes on the ground in the parking lot before being pronounced dead.
The patient, Barbara Dawson, can be heard on audio and seen on video released by lawyers for her family, who accused the Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown, Fla., of negligence. The recordings, more than two hours long, provide further details to the Blountstown Police Department report published last month.
Dawson’s death is being investigated by three state agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Investigators will give their findings to the state attorney, who will decide whether any further action, including possible charges, is needed, a spokesman, Steve Arthur, said Thursday.
The Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health are also investigating, the hospital said.
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A lawyer for the family, Darryl Parks, said the video showed that Dawson, who was black, was not given timely care by the hospital in Blountstown, which is about 50 miles from Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle.
Sandi Poreda, a hospital spokeswoman, said privacy concerns prevented her from discussing Dawson’s initial symptoms, but the police report said she had complained about a pain in her abdomen. Poreda said Dawson was given a full range of tests and treatments in the emergency room.
The report showed that just before 5 a.m. on Dec. 21, a police officer, identified as John Tadlock Jr., was called to the hospital when Dawson refused to leave after being discharged.
As Christmas music plays in the background, Tadlock, who is wearing a body microphone, can be heard in the video trying to persuade Dawson to leave, saying she needs to seek treatment elsewhere if she still feels sick.
He tells her that she faces charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing, the police report said.
“You need to leave my room. You need to just leave. I am really feeling sick here,” Dawson says on the audio. And then, “I can’t breathe.”
“I am not feeling good,” Dawson says, sounding out of breath as she pleads with the officer and staff. “I can’t even hardly breathe.” The officer urges her to walk out peacefully.
At one point, Tadlock tried to take off the oxygen hose Dawson was wearing, but she struggled, according to the police report. He then disconnected it from a port in the wall. A female voice, apparently a medical staff member, says on the video, “You have been breathing just fine.”
Eventually, the officer handcuffs Dawson, who he says was “resisting arrest,” and takes her outside.
“I had to push her from behind to get her to go with me,” the officer wrote in the report. As she neared the police cruiser, Dawson fell, leading the officer to believe that she “was making herself dead weight in an effort to avoid going to jail.”
In the next 20 minutes or so, Dawson is largely silent and unseen in the police dashboard camera video. Glimpses of the officer and medical staff can be seen as they struggle to get Dawson into the car from where she has fallen just outside the rear door.
At one point, she is told to “stand up now” and that she is making things worse. A nurse takes Dawson’s vital signs repeatedly, and a woman can be heard saying: “Come on now. Nothing wrong with you.”
The officer and a woman can be seen trying to pull Dawson, who weighed 270 pounds, into the back seat. “You are going to go to jail one way or the other,” a voice says on the recording.
Tadlock then calls for a transport vehicle to take her to jail. When it does not come, a wheelchair is brought out, then a stretcher.
At that point, the report said, the doctor who had discharged her, Stewart Warren, approached. “This is totally different than what she was when I was discharging her,” Warren said, and ordered her to be readmitted.
“All right, Ms. Dawson, you are going to stay at the hospital,” a man says as he urges her to get up and onto the stretcher. “That’s what you wanted.”
As she is wheeled into the hospital, “Silent Night” can be heard playing over the speakers.
Dawson was pronounced dead at 6:24 a.m., the police report said.
The cause of death was a “pulmonary saddle embolism,” or a blood clot on the branch of the main arteries in her lungs, an investigator with the medical examiner, Whit Majors, said Thursday.