Prosecutor: Paramedics killed man by strapping him facedown
CHICAGO (AP) — Two Illinois paramedics face first-degree murder charges, having been accused of strapping a patient facedown on a stretcher while taking him to a hospital last month.
Illinois authorities filed the charges against Peggy Finley and Peter Cadigan on Jan. 9, nearly a month after 35-year-old Earl Moore died. Under Illinois law, a first-degree murder charge can be filed when a defendant “knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.”
Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright announced the charges at a Jan. 10 press conference after an autopsy. The autopsy report listed Moore’s cause of death as homicide, caused by compressional and positional asphyxia as he lay facedown on the paramedic stretcher with straps tightened across his back.
If convicted, Finley and Cadigan could face between 20 and 60 years in prison.
They remained in the Sangamon County jail on Tuesday and were being held on a $1 million bond each. A message left Tuesday at their attorney’s office was not immediately returned. They are next due in court on Thursday.
After announcing the charges, authorities released body camera footage from three Springfield police officers showing Moore’s encounter with the officers and the paramedics. Wright said Moore’s family and community groups were consulted before the footage was released.
The Springfield police department first responded to Moore’s home around 2 a.m. on Dec. 18. The police footage shows that a woman inside the home told one of the officers that Moore was in withdrawal from alcohol and hallucinating.
The video shows Moore lying on a bed, occasionally speaking incoherently or gasping. At one point he rolls onto the floor. Wright said the officers felt Moore was in “medical distress” and called paramedics.
When Finley arrives, she comes into the bedroom where Moore is still on the floor. Soon after, she yells at him to sit up and asks repeatedly for his birth date.
“Sit up,” she said. “You know what, I am not playing. Sit up. Quit acting stupid. Sit up. Sit up now. I am not playing with you tonight.”
“You’re gonna have to walk cause we ain’t carrying you,” she adds as police tell Moore he has to walk outside to get to the hospital.
Police then lift Moore to his feet between two officers and slowly move him toward the door. Outside the home, police lift him onto the stretcher. The second paramedic waiting outside the house forcefully puts Moore onto his stomach and the two paramedics are shown tightly strapping Moore to the stretcher in that position.
According to a statement from Springfield police, the department later learned that Moore died after arriving at the hospital and Chief Ken Scarlette asked the Illinois State Police to conduct an independent investigation of Moore’s death.
“The officers, who are not emergency medical professionals, are not trained nor equipped to provide the necessary medical treatment or to transport patients in this type of situation,” Scarlette said in a statement. “The officers turned over care of the patient to the licensed, medical professionals at the scene in accordance with Springfield Police Department policy.”
Douglas Wolfberg, a founding partner of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth a law firm that concentrates on representing emergency medical services, said it’s immensely rare for a provider to face a murder or homicide charge in connection with patient care and it’s difficult for prosecutors to make a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. Wolfberg said he was extremely troubled by the video and believes the pair at least provided “wholly deficient care” from when Finley first interacted with Moore to when the paramedics strapped their patient in the prone position.
“EMS is a profession of highly trained specialists who provide emergency care in the most difficult and stressful of circumstances and give their best,” Wolfberg said. “This was a very unfortunate and tragic example of providers who did not give their best.”
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