I-TEAM: Paul Tarashuk’s family fights for federal help to hold Orangeburg County accountable

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 4:37 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, SC (WRDW/WAGT) - Paul Tarashuk would have celebrated his 28th birthday this month, but instead, his parents are pushing the federal government to hold Orangeburg County EMS and the sheriff’s office accountable for possible violations of the Americans with Disabilities act.

Tarashuk was hit and killed on the interstate after an Orangeburg County deputy left him at a closed gas station in the middle of the night. We broke the story last year after obtaining this body cam video showing ems berating and cursing at him before leaving him with the deputy. Tarashuk suffered from schizoaffective disorder.

Paul and Cindy Tarashuk are pushing Congress because the state of South Carolina recently determined neither the sheriff’s office nor EMS committed misconduct by abandoning a mentally ill man on the side of the road.

The body cam video shows the younger Paul Tarashuk naked and disoriented on top of a tractor-trailer.

Tarashuk’s family believes something triggered his schizoaffective disorder. He is unresponsive by the time ems arrives with the ambulance, but they do realize something is wrong with him.

But instead of taking him to the hospital, they leave him with a deputy. This video shows the deputy dropping Tarashuk off at a closed gas station without his shoes, wallet, or cell phone. He died four hours later after a car hit and killed him.

Paul and Cindy can’t accept the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division found no criminal wrongdoing in their son’s death.

“The state of South Carolina has chosen not to prosecute,” Cindy said. “They are not going to hold anybody accountable in Paul’s death.”

We obtained this letter from South Carolina solicitor David Pascoe considers the investigation into Paul’s death as closed, stating none of the conduct presented in this matter rises to the level of criminal misconduct in office.

“They have sent a clear message to EMS and law enforcement that they can take someone who they feel has a mental illness as they said in the body cam. They can mistreat them, they can assault him, they can abandon him barely clothed with no means to advocate for himself during the middle of the night with a hurricane,” Cindy said.

One in five Americans experiences mental illness every year.

A person with untreated mental illness is 16 times more likely to die in an encounter with police than other citizens approached.

COVID-19 has created the perfect storm too.

The CDC issued a warning about an increase in mental illness during the pandemic. Meanwhile, massive budget cuts to mental health services in Georgia went into effect this month.

Congressman Tom Malinowski is pushing for change. He requests the FBI to investigate Paul’s death to determine whether Orangeburg County violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities act. He sent this letter to US Attorney William Barr in March just before COVID shut down the country.

The Tarashuks have filed a civil suit against Orangeburg County too, but lawsuits have slowed down because of the pandemic shutting down courts.

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