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Fire Department to review procedures after Halloween night beating

Posted on 02 December 2009 by wyoskibum

MADISON, WI – The Madison Fire Department will review its procedures to see if changes are needed after paramedics responding to a 911 call for a man who had been beaten did not know the victim had been assaulted, Chief Debra Amesqua said.

Amesqua said paramedics were initially dispatched for an unknown problem involving an unconscious man in the 400 block of West Doty Street shortly after bar time Halloween night. Paramedics were not aware of an update stating that the man might have been beaten, which a 911 call taker sent two minutes before paramedics arrived at the scene at 2:20 a.m. Nov. 1.

“The fact that this male had been beaten up was information that we would have liked to have had,” Amesqua said. “I do think that our approach would have been different if we knew that the person had been beaten up.”

Paul Logan, support services manager for the 911 center, said call takers type messages to dispatchers and emergency responders while they are on the phone getting information from callers. Ideally, the fact that the man might have been beaten would have been included in the call taker’s initial communication, sent two minutes before an update including that information, he said.

The need for call takers to communicate critical information as soon as possible will be reviewed in an upcoming in-service training, Logan said.

But he said the call was handled according to the center’s protocols and dispatched as a high priority, and paramedics were at the scene within six minutes.

Accounts of what took place next differ.

Jordan Miller, 21, of Salem in Kenosha County said he suffered permanent injuries, including five fractures in his spine, when he was knocked backward over the railing of a first floor porch at 436 W. Doty St. by a man he said he didn’t know.

Miller said he lost consciousness, then woke to three men kicking him and making derogatory references to his sexual orientation, while another man took money from his wallet. Miller is gay.

The assault began after a female friend, with whom he had been arguing after they had been out drinking, kicked him and he pushed her away, Miller said.

A woman passing by began hitting one of the attackers with her shoe, then lay on top of Miller to stop the attack, he said.

Miller’s mother, Holly Wells, has sought unsuccessfully to find the woman they credit with saving her son’s life, both to thank her and to obtain additional information about the incident, which Madison police are now investigating.

Because of his injuries, which medical records show also include bulging discs, Miller was unable to complete the fall semester at UW-Parkside, and it is uncertain if he will be able to start a theater job in New York City scheduled to begin in January, he said.

Miller said he told a paramedic, whom he thought was a police officer, that he had just been beaten and could not get up. He said the paramedic told him to get up or he would be taken to detox then pulled him up and took him back to the house of the friend with whom he had been arguing.

Miller said the paramedic asked if he needed an ambulance, and he replied that he had no health insurance. The paramedic then questioned whether he was refusing medical treatment, but Miller did not reply, Miller said.

Amesqua said the paramedic, Gary Schreiber, denied that Miller told him he had been beaten. Miller also had no apparent injuries, she said.

Schreiber told a police detective that Miller refused medical treatment, Amesqua said.

A Fire Department report indicates paramedics responded to “a man sleeping in a alley. We were able to get him up and inside his house.”

According to the 911 center, the ambulance was back in service less than two minutes after arriving at the scene, and a police officer sent to assist paramedics was at the scene for 18 seconds.

There is no indication that the officer spoke with Miller, said Central District Capt. Mary Schauf. It was unclear whether the officer was aware that Miller might have been beaten.

Miller returned home the same morning and later sought medical treatment. He filed a report with police Nov. 2 after learning the department had no report of his assault, he said.

Schreiber declined an interview request, fire department spokeswoman Lori Wirth said. Amesqua said Schreiber, who has been with the department for 13 years and has been a paramedic for five years, acted appropriately.

Neighbor Mike Zydowicz, 22, said he called 911 after a house guest who had been on his back porch woke him and said someone was being beaten up outside.

In his 911 call, a recording of which was obtained by the State Journal, Zydowicz says, “Someone said they beat some guy up … we don’t feel a pulse and we need somebody over here right away … he’s just laying there in a lump … it’s not good.”

Logan said that after police and paramedics were initially dispatched for an unknown problem involving an unconscious man, police and fire dispatchers were busy dispatching other calls and did not radio them the updated information that Miller might have been beaten.

While the new information was sent to paramedics electronically, Amesqua said, paramedics have to manually refresh their computer screen to view updates, which is not part of their protocol. The department will review the incident to see if any changes are needed to ensure paramedics have the most current information, she said.

Schauf said the police department was adequately staffed for the city’s annual Halloween celebration, which drew about 44,000 revelers to State Street for Freakfest.

Miller’s lawyer, Jeff Scott Olson, said his client’s injuries were not exacerbated by the paramedic and no action against the fire or police department is planned.

“I don’t fault the police or the paramedic for their handling of this situation on Halloween, when they’re stretched to the breaking point,” Olson said, adding, “It would have been nice if they had had a little more time for him.”

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