From Blountstown Police Chief Mark Mallory, Blountstown, FL
First and foremost, our deepest condolences go out to the family of Ms. Barbara Dawson. As law enforcement officers we are frequently, and in fact, perhaps daily, called to the emergency room to ensure the safety of patients, staff, family members and visitors. During the early morning hours of December 21, 2015 at approx. 4:46 A.M. the Blountstown Police Department was called to the emergency department (ED) at Calhoun Liberty Hospital due to patient that refused to leave the ED after being discharged by a doctor.
A single officer from our department arrived at the ED at approx. 4:48 A.M. Upon arrival, medical staff at the ED notified our officer that the discharged patient, Ms. Barbara Dawson, had indeed been discharged by their physician and was refusing to leave her room. Our officer proceeded to this room where he greeted the patient and requested that she voluntarily cooperate and leave the premises. The officer made multiple requests for Dawson to leave the facility. Our officer asked an aunt, who was present in the room, if she could take her home. Ms. Dawson continued to refuse to cooperate at this time, and the officer took her into custody. Dawson was being charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
The patient walked out of the ED under her own power, escorted by our officer. Upon arrival at the patrol car, our officer went to open the back door at which time Ms. Dawson collapsed and our officer attempted to control her fall to the ground. This occurred at approx. 4:59 A.M. Our officer tried to get Ms. Dawson to respond to his verbal commands. Our officer asked for help once he realized the patient did indeed appear to be unresponsive and had medical staff respond to Ms. Dawson at approx. 5:00 A.M.
Medical staff came to the patrol car and took Ms. Dawson’s vital signs. Ms. Dawson had a pulse and appeared to be breathing. Medical staff remained with Ms. Dawson and checked her vital signs on several occasions. During this time the right side handcuff was removed from Mrs. Dawson, while she was being monitored. A few moments later the ED physician came outside and instructed his team to bring Ms. Dawson back inside the ED. At this time, the care of Ms. Dawson was transferred to the ED staff. Our officer asked the doctor present with Ms. Dawson if she was being readmitted into the hospital and he advised that she was. Ms. Dawson was quickly transported back inside the ED.
According to interviews conducted with medical staff and the available audio from the officer’s in car camera, Ms. Dawson had a pulse and was alive when transferred back to the care of the doctor and hospital. Ms. Dawson expired while being attended to by a doctor in the ED, and was pronounced dead at approx. 6:24 A.M.
I have been briefed by our District 14 Medical Examiner out of Panama City, Florida as to the cause of death. The Medical Examiner indicated that the death had been ruled a natural death and that the cause of death was due to pulmonary saddle embolus due to thrombophlebitis, due to morbid obesity. This is commonly referred to as blood clot in the lungs.
The Blountstown Police Department will continue to investigate the events surrounding the death of Ms. Dawson. I have also requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) open their own independent investigation into this matter. The Blountstown Police Department will cooperate fully with FDLE during their investigation.
Blountstown is a small, close-knit community, we look after each other, and we care for each other. When our officers report to someone’s home, the scene of an accident, or the emergency department, the safety of all involved is our top concern. I am not a physician and cannot address the medical condition of Ms. Dawson. What I can say is that we all grieve when we lose a community member. Losing someone to a car accident or an existing medical condition, the loss is still the same.