Monday, March 18, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock
Paul Tarashuck, pictured here inside an ambulance without a shirt on, was being treated on Interstate 95 just hours before he died while walking on the interstate.
ORANGEBURG, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- It started with a few 911 calls on Sept. 9, 2018.
911 Caller: There is a man naked running down the interstate on 95.
911 Caller: I don't know if you are going to believe me or not, but I just had a naked guy come walk up on me on the side of the road, and I took off and I think he jumped on my catwalk.
It was 26-year-old Paul Tarashuk. When Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived to try and grab Tarashuk, they believed he was on drugs. He was not. He was having a schizophrenic episode.
Tarashuk's disorientation made it difficult for deputies and EMT officials that eventually arrived at the scene to understand him.
Body cam captured by one of the deputies at the scene shows Tarashuk appearing confused.
"I'm getting this thing passed down," one of the deputies said to a truck driver at the scene. "He ain't going to jail, I promise you that. He ain't my fish. I'll get him some medical help."
Nobody knew just how much Tarashuk needed medical help more than his mother, Cindy Tarashuk.
"Paul did have a mental illness," Cindy said.
"Instead of helping him and recognizing what they should have been trained to recognize, they insulted him and called him names and mocked him."
The deputy's body cam is still recording when EMT workers arrive. They ask Tarashuk for his name over and over again, but he doesn't respond. It's clear by the video they're getting agitated.
"What's your name?" one EMT said. "Tell us your damn name, please."
Tarashuk continued to not respond.
"Stop acting stupid," the EMT said, "You are a grown man."
The longer Tarashuk sits in silence, the shorter their patience becomes.
"Tell me your name," the EMT said. "We will let you go so I can go back to bed."
"She is being serious," the deputy said back.
"I am being [expletive] serious," the EMT said. "I'm sleepy. Give me your damn name so I can go home for real. I am tired."
Cindy is still shocked about what happened.
"Even though he wasn't capable of signing himself out that he doesn't want help, they just let him walk out of the ambulance," Cindy said.
The deputy on scene then offers to give Tarashuk a ride.
"Do not walk on the interstate," the deputy said to Tarashuk. "Do not walk on the shoulder of the road. You are not under arrest. I am going to give you a ride."
And he did.
"Then the police officer took him 18 miles to Santee and dropped him off in a closed gas station," Cindy said.
But that's not where Tarashuk's story ends. Instead, it ends 4 hours later with his death after he was hit by a car.
The same EMS crew is called to the scene where Tarashuk was struck.
"There is just no words to explain how our family feels," Cindy said.
Tarashuk, his family said, was a fun-loving son, brother, and friend.
"He didn't choose to have an illness," Cindy said. "It's something he had needed to be treated like any other person with an illness."
Toxicology reports show Tarashuk had no drugs in his system.
In March, South Carolina found the two EMTs who responded to the scene, Alison Harmon and Jamie Givens, failed to care for Tarashuk and abandoned him when they should have taken steps to protect him.
Tarashuk was a protector on his own. He once saved the life of an elderly woman driving the wrong way on the interstate.
But on Interstate 95, those who could have helped Tarashuk -- didn't.