Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and a security company settle wrongful death lawsuit www.privateofficer.com
Terms of the agreement between Valerie Walker and the hospital were not disclosed.
Walker’s son, Andre, a 27-year-old schizophrenic, died after security officers in the Emergency Department restrained him on April 17, 2011. One of the officers put Andre in a choke hold, according to the lawsuit. A medical examiner determined that he died of asphyxiation, court documents state.
Valerie Walker’s suit against AlliedBarton, the company that employs the security officers, remains pending. Jennifer Milak, a lawyer for the company, did not return a call for comment.
Valerie Walker also is hoping that someone will be held criminally responsible for her son’s death.
“I just think justice should be done since human life was taken and it was not warranted,” Walker said Tuesday. “I do not have my son anymore, and I don’t think anything has been done as of yet legally with the people that are responsible.”
Walker wrote a letter to Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West last month imploring him to bring charges against those responsible for her son’s death.
“The neglect here is unprecedented and I want action, not just for Andre, but for all the mental patients and young men and women who suffer when misconduct, such as has been witnessed in this case, goes unpunished,” she wrote. “What if Andre was your son; would we still be waiting? I have already waited too long.”
In an interview last week, West said he expects the Fayetteville Police Department’s investigative file related to Walker’s death to be turned over to his office in the next few weeks.
West, and possibly lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office, will review the findings and determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
“It is an open-ended timeline,” West said. “Normally, these files are fairly extensive and we want to be thorough.”
At the time of his death, Andre Walker was living with his mother and focusing on his music career. Valerie Walker said her son had always been drawn to music, a passion he picked up as a child from his musical father.
She said her son wrote and performed rap music. He had recorded 13 songs and was one song short of completing his first album of original material when he died, she said.
“His music was structured to reach out to the lost, the misguided and the misunderstood,” she said. “He wanted to reach out and tell them they can make it because he made it and he had been through a lot in his life.”
But it all ended suddenly that day in April 2011. About 5 p.m., Andre Walker was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He had been acting strange, possibly because he had stopped taking his medications.
According to the lawsuit:
A doctor on staff ordered medication for Walker and decided to commit him to the first mental hospital with space. But as the hours passed and no hospital with a room could be found, Walker became increasingly agitated and aggressive with the staff.
He tried to leave but was restrained by security guards. One of the guards put Walker in a choke hold and pulled him to the floor. Three other guards grabbed Walker and got on top of him.
A surveillance video from the hospital showed that Walker became nonresponsive after a few minutes of struggle.
For about 90 seconds after the struggle began, security guards hovered over Walker, and hospital staff and security guards continued to enter and exit the room.
At 9:17:51 p.m., the security guards placed Walker on a stretcher. Nurses and guards undressed him and secured leather restraints to his arms and legs.
At 9:21 p.m., medical staff checked Walker’s vital signs. A nurse brought a “resuscitation bag” to the room at 9:23:15 p.m. and handed it to a security guard.
A resuscitation bag is a hand-held device used to provide ventilation to someone who is not breathing or not breathing adequately.
The security guard attempted to resuscitate Walker using the bag but was unsuccessful. Walker was taken to another room, where another attempt was made to resuscitate him at 9:23:31 p.m.
The hospital never reported Walker’s death to the Fayetteville police, who said they learned of it only after the state Medical Examiner’s Office contacted them five months later.
Valerie Walker said she is hopeful her lawsuit will spur changes in how mentally ill patients are treated in hospitals and emergency rooms.
“I want precautions taken and things put into place for the protection of people that have mental illnesses,” she said. “There needs to be training for people that have direct contact with them because they need to understand how to deal with them. You can’t deal with them the same way you would deal with someone off the street.”