Yesterday, I read a sad news story in the Washington Post about a 60 year old woman named Lisa Edwards. Accompanying the story was a picture of Edwards, who in recent years, had been confined to a wheelchair. She had the appearance of a homeless person, with stringy hair and an overall unkempt appearance. I’m sure it was easy for the police who had arrived to forcibly remove her from Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she had just received medical treatment and was released.
Edwards had refused to leave the hospital because she claimed she still felt unwell. Hospital security had called the Knoxville police and asked them to “trespass” her. The police accused Edwards of faking, as she refused to leave under her own power. She told them she couldn’t breathe. They didn’t believe her; one officer accused her of putting on “an act”, saying that all he wanted was some coffee and oatmeal. When she asked for her inhaler, an officer looked in her purse to find it, and offered her a cigarette instead.
Edwards was unable to step into the police van. The cops said they couldn’t lift her, because she was “dead weight”. They didn’t know how true that comment would turn out to be, as Lisa Edwards soon after her encounter with them.
Still, one officer peevishly said, “Listen, I’m not doin’ this today. This is the ‘Lord’s Day’… all I want is some coffee and oatmeal. I’m NOT gonna deal with your mess this morning. We’ve already spent too much time on you. You’re gonna get up here in this van and you’re gonna go to jail. We’re DONE with you.”
When Ms. Edwards said she was going to pass out, the same officer said, “You’re not gonna pass out.”
The cops continued talking among themselves. One of them seemed to be more cautious, and said something along the lines of, “Unfortunately, if she goes over and can’t breathe…” The video footage then shows Ms. Edwards lying on the street in what appear to be hospital scrubs. She begs the police to help her up.
The cops finally manage to get Edwards into a police cruiser. As they were headed to the police department, the officer who was driving noticed that Edwards was unresponsive. Video shows one of them pulling her head back and saying, “I don’t know if she’s fakin’ it or what, but she’s not answering.”
The cop then calls an ambulance for Lisa Edwards. She’s taken back to Fort Sanders Medical Center, where she was placed on life support. The woman later died of the stroke she had repeatedly warned the cops she was about to have, as they accused her of “faking” and ordered her to stop with her “mess”.
Below is video footage of the arrest, which was shared by Inside Edition.
Amazingly enough, even though it’s very clear that the police officers involved in this case were unprofessional and inhumane, the Knox County district attorney general’s office announced Monday that it would not be filing criminal charges against the officers involved. An autopsy revealed that Ms. Edwards died of “natural causes”. Apparently, video surveillance did not show that the cops who were trying to take Edwards into custody did anything to hasten her death.
The district attorney’s office specifically stated “Ms. Edwards was not beaten by the police, she was never subdued, there was no physical struggle between law enforcement and Ms. Edwards, and there was no restraint asphyxia…” I suppose that’s technically true, based on the footage. Still, those cops showed no humanity or mercy toward a fellow human being. They should be deeply ashamed of themselves for their conduct. As of this writing, the four police officers involved with this incident are on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
I don’t know anything about autopsies, nor do I know anything about Lisa Edwards that hasn’t been in the press. However, I do think it’s absolutely heartbreaking that this woman’s life ended in the completely undignified and cruel way it did. She was obviously in distress and needed help. The cops let her down and treated her like an animal. But the cops aren’t the only ones responsible for Lisa Edwards’ horrifying exit from the mortal coil. She was also let down by the medical staff at the hospital.
Naturally, the powers that be at the hospital are covering their asses with the statement that is shown in today’s featured photo. Looks to me like they just wanted to “turf” Lisa Edwards… kick her out of the hospital and make her someone else’s problem.
But Edwards wasn’t just some anonymous stray on the streets of Knoxville. She had a loving family and friends. In fact, she was in the process of moving back to Tennessee from Rhode Island to live with her friends. She wasn’t in good health, having had a stroke in 2019 that left her needing a wheelchair. Still, she had a son, and lived with him and his family until she decided she’d rather live in Tennessee. She had grandchildren she loved, and who loved her. This was not the way Lisa Edward’s last days in life should have been spent.
This isn’t the only outrageous story about callous treatment at the hands of U.S. based emergency services I’ve read of lately. Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of bodycam footage of police and emergency interactions with people in the United States. I’ve seen at least two more videos about police officers and emergency services workers treating people with cruelty and utter contempt.
In December, EMTs in Saginaw County, Illinois were caught being negligent, cruel, and callous to Earl Moore Jr., a man in Illinois who was experiencing alcohol withdrawal needed their help. In this case, the workers were eventually charged with first degree murder, as Mr. Moore died of asphyxia due to being strapped prone to the stretcher.
In another sad case from three years ago, a 26 year old man named Paul Tarashuk died after he was basically dumped by cops and emergency workers who desperately needed their help. Tarashuk suffered from schizoaffective disorder, and was experiencing a psychotic episode when he encountered the police near Orangeburg, South Carolina. A trucker saw a naked Mr. Tarashuk walking toward him, then later realized the man was riding on his rig. He called 911.
The police officer who responded thought Tarashuk was high or drunk. First responders were caught on camera treating Mr. Tarashuk with contempt, demanding his name and saying they were “sleepy”. One of the crew members waved an ammonia capsule under his nose. Finally, the deputy puts Tarashuk in his cruiser and dumps him at a closed gas station, with no shoes or phone. A few hours later, the same ambulance crew picked up Mr. Tarashuk. He was dead.
The above link is a news report, but I actually saw the whole video of raw bodycam footage. The mind boggles as to what has caused these emergency workers to become so completely uncaring and inhumane. The fact that Mr. Tarashuk was naked and disoriented should have been a clue that he was potentially dealing with an organic mental illness that he couldn’t help. But even if he had been high or drunk, this was still no way to treat another human being!
I haven’t had any dealings with police recently. I only had one experience with EMTs, but that was about 30 years ago. I didn’t let them take me to the hospital after I fainted at the Olive Garden in Roanoke, Virginia. These cases definitely make me not want to have anything to do with emergency workers or the police, even if I know they aren’t all like this.
Consider, too, that an ambulance ride in the United States isn’t free of charge. Depending on the town and the mileage, a ride in an ambulance, after insurance pays out, can cost several hundred to thousands of dollars. To be clear, even if the ambulance service in the US was completely free of charge, I’d still expect much more professional conduct from emergency services personnel. But the fact that people pay a lot of money for this kind of treatment is just outrageous.
My heart goes out to the family members and friends of the people in these recent cases who have spent their last hours of life in the care of people who apparently need to find new work. I don’t understand why a person would be attracted to find a job in emergency services if they can’t be moved to care for people, even when it’s the middle of the night or the “Lord’s Day”. It certainly doesn’t make me want to trust that I might find help when I need it, next time I’m in the USA.
I don’t know if things are like this in Germany, although having seen some of them in action, I tend to think not. From what I’ve seen, German emergency personnel are very serious about their jobs. At least it costs a lot less to be medically treated here… whether with respect or contempt.