Families question first aid response by deputies after recent deaths

MGN Online
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News 12 First at Five/ Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Richmond County deputies are trained in CPR and first aid every year. They have to be ready for anything on the job.

Betty McClendon said her brother, David Palmer, did not get the help he needed, and it cost him his life.

"I don't think they did it the right way. Because, had they done it the right way, I think they could've gotten whatever was in his mouth out," McClendon said.

Deputies put David Palmer in handcuffs after an altercation with a woman inside a mobile home on Turkey Trail Drive in Hephzibah. They put him in a patrol car and then, according to incident reports, that's when they spotted a small bag of weed in his mouth, and tried to get it out. Palmer started choking. Then, two deputies say they "attempted the Heimlich maneuver numerous times without results."

To help choking victims, the Red Cross says to first give five back blows to try to loosen the object, then try the Heimlich. Data has shown when one technique fail moving to another technique is likely to have success.

The American Heart Association, which is the training Richmond County deputies receive, does not teach the "back blow" method.

Alvera Harvey said deputies were not prepared last summer either when her brother was tased by Richmond County deputies. Video from the scene shows an officer rolling George Harvey's limp body over.

"Knowing that he should be trained in CPR, there was no reason for him to not do anything," Harvey said.

From the time deputies turn Harvey over and find him non-responsive, 6 minutes and 20 seconds pass before a deputy begins chest compressions. An autopsy later found Harvey died from a combination of drugs in his system and electric shock.

"Had he tried CPR, we don't know what the outcome would've been, but we definitely know what did happen because he didn't perform CPR," said Harvey.

We checked with other local law enforcement around the area to check on their policies. Captain Steve Morris with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office says their deputies are trained in first aid techniques, Including CPR. Morris says there are annual training courses offered. Some deputies are only required to take the training every other year, but those working at the jail must take a refresher course annually.

Burke County also requires their deputies to be trained in first aid, including CPR.