CHARLOTTE — 9 Investigates is learning more about the medical response for a man who died while in police custody.
Jovontay Williams died hours after he was taken into custody by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department last June. In police body camera video released in February, you can hear officers call for MEDIC at 2:12 a.m. on June 13, 2022. It took 19 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
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In 2018, Mecklenburg EMS enacted a policy called a “first responder-only response.” The protocol says that if CMPD or Charlotte Fire doesn’t tell MEDIC there is a patient on scene, or they don’t provide specific information about a patient, MEDIC won’t send an ambulance. Instead, Charlotte Fire will be sent to to assess whether MEDIC is needed.
MEDIC said that protocol was used in Williams’ case. The agency said it didn’t dispatch an ambulance for Williams even though CMPD called for a medical response. MEDIC also said officers did not confirm there was a patient on scene or provide specifics about his medical condition.
Jovontay’s parents, Christa Williams and Jerry Hampton, have serious concerns about the protocol and how it was handled in their son’s case.
“I need a policy change for my son, that is my goal,” said Christa Williams.
“I think, I really think my son would be alive today if the police would describe the situation better, paramedics would have got their phone,” Hampton said. “I believe those few minutes made a difference in my son’s life.”
MEDIC’s Executive Director, John Peterson, told Channel 9′s Gina Esposito though he couldn’t speak to this case directly, over the years, the first responder-only response has been successful. He said in many cases, it’s allowed them to hold ambulances for more serious calls.
In 2022, CMPD made 7,769 calls for MEDIC that were labeled as first responder-only responses. Out of those, MEDIC wasn’t needed in 4,272 calls, or 55% percent of the time. In 2021, CMPD made 10,373 of those calls. MEDIC wasn’t needed in 7,364 calls, or 71% percent of them.
Peterson said it’s not a perfect system.
“You’re only as good as the information that you receive from the caller. So occasionally, there is going to be a higher priority call that comes out of that,” he said. “We’ve looked at that -- our medical director -- reviews that -- and it’s less than 1% -- but it’s significantly less than 1% of those calls turn out to actually have a life-threatening illness or injury.”
Esposito obtained Williams’ medical report from MEDIC. The report said, “...patient was found handcuffed... and in severe respiratory distress.” Paramedics noted that Williams was unconscious, and he was transported as the highest priority. The report says a paramedic administered oxygen, cleared his airways, and gave him Narcan.
Williams died hours later at a hospital. His autopsy report, which would show his cause of death, still isn’t ready.
“I go home on Sunday after church, I’m used to my son coming through the door. I still think he’s coming through the doors on time,” Hampton said. “I have to tell myself, because of the decisions they made he’s not here.”
Esposito has requested the radio traffic between first responders.
Esposito also asked CMPD several questions about the first responder-only response and how it was handled by officers. The department responded saying officers did request medical assistance and followed protocol.
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