Attorneys for the family of a Florida woman who died after being forcibly removed from a hospital, despite her complaints that she should not be discharged, have released a police dashcam video showing her struggling with officers.
Barbara Dawson, 57, went to the Liberty-Calhoun Hospital in Blountsown, Fla., on Dec. 21, reporting abdominal pain. She was treated and discharged the next day, but when she refused to leave, the medical staff called the authorities. Dawson was handcuffed and later collapsed as police forced her from the building. She died some 90 minutes later.
In the video, Dawson is barely seen, but can be heard clearly first refusing to leave the hospital, insisting she was still ill and in pain, then arguing with the responding officers as she was taken out by force. The officer contended she was not complying with their orders.
As she is taken to the patrol car, Dawson collapses. The officers, unable to physically lift her into the vehicle, believed she was making herself “dead weight” to avoid being taken into custody.
“Myself and medical staff made several attempts to place Dawson in my patrol car to no avail. I continued to ask Dawson to comply with my request and get in the car, but Dawson continued to be unresponsive to any commands or request,” said Ofc. John Tadlock in an incident report.
The report also states that a nurse checked Dawson’s vital signs and they were normal, but a doctor later came out and said Dawson needed to be readmitted “for symptoms totally different than what she had been released from earlier.”
The medical examiner’s office found that Dawson died from a blood clot due to obesity.
Ruth Attaway, the CEO of Liberty-Calhoun Hospital, said last week that the blood clot found in Dawson’s lungs is often “difficult to detect and can be impossible to treat.” But her family’s representatives say police bear responsibility in Dawson’s death.
“You hear her from the time the officer arrives in her room. She’s in a panic telling him that she cannot breathe,” attorney Daryl Parks told the Tallahassee Democrat. “Even as they disconnect her oxygen against her will she begs, “I can’t breathe. Please don’t do this,” as the officer continues to tell her she is going to jail.”
“We believe from a medical standpoint, and from a policeman’s stand point, that is significant in the delay that you have there,” Parks said at a news conference held with the woman’s family. “There was not deliberate speed to assist her.”
Dawson’s death comes amid increased scrutiny of police treatment of Blacks. Dawson was Black and the officer who arrested her is White.
There is no hospital surveillance video of the incident because a server was down for upgrades at the time. Hospital spokeswoman Sandi Poreda, told The Associated Press that staff discovered on Dec. 22 that the server had not stored video since Nov. 28. The server has since been fixed and footage is now being recorded. The hospital is also in the process of installing new cameras.
An adjacent church and apartment complex had no additional surveillance video.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has started an investigation into the hospital to determine if any state or federal laws were broken. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also investigating.
–With Associated Press