The D.C. man found dead inside his Northwest D.C. apartment just hours after police and firefighters took him there died of “acute ethanol intoxication.” That is what the D.C. medical examiner has ruled -- adding the janitor’s death was an accident.
Now, top city officials are defending the way 39-year-old Jose Perez was treated.
Perez was drinking heavily the day he died. No one is disputing that. Instead, the question from the start has always been the treatment he received from the firefighter/EMTs and the D.C. police officer who escorted him back inside his building.
Was it the right thing to do? The deputy mayor for public safety and the chief of police both said it was.
Perez and the condition he was in came to the attention of first responders on January 10th when someone called 911 to say the 39-year-old had collapsed on a sidewalk outside an apartment building on 16th Street, NW.
When police and firefighters arrived, they determined the janitor was intoxicated and wasn't in need of emergency medical care.
At his request, city officials said the police and EMTs put Perez on a stair chair and took him back inside the building where he lived.
Approximately five hours later, he was found dead.
Paul Quander, the deputy mayor for public safety, said first responders had no right to ignore the man’s wishes.
"They spoke with him in his native tongue [of] Spanish,” he said. “They asked him multiple times, ‘Do you want to go to a hospital? We are here to take you to a hospital.’ He said multiple times -- no, he wanted to go to his home. They helped him inside of his home. They asked again, ‘Do you want to go to the hospital?’ Again, he refused.”
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier had a similar opinion.
"We come across a lot of people in the course of our work who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” she said. “Adults have the right to refuse transportation, treatment, things like that. We do have people who are transported to a hospital for hospital care if it’s obvious they are acutely intoxicated or in medical distress, but it's not always obvious. It's not always obvious.”
In an interview with FOX 5 last month, Perez's common law wife said he was so drunk, he could not speak and witnesses told her he couldn't have communicated clearly with the first responders.
The entire incident is under review by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the deputy mayor admits the firefighter-EMTs on the scene that day violated protocol.
"They didn't do the documentation the way they were supposed to,” said Quander. “And they did not call a supervisor before signing off and saying he refuses treatment. Those things should have been done.”
Perez was found dead on a couch inside his apartment by a neighbor who came to check on him.
An attorney hired by the family is now conducting his own investigation.
The deputy mayor said the U.S. Attorney’s Office got involved after someone put an allegation in writing against the first responders. Quander said the allegation was based on something the person had heard. He would not disclose the outline of the allegation.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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