TAMPA — The widow of a man who died last year after suffering a diabetic seizure during an encounter with Tampa police officers is suing the city of Tampa, as well as the officers involved, claiming their actions led to his death.
Filed in federal court Tuesday by Lena Young, who was married to Arthur Green Jr., the eight-count lawsuit alleges that when Green became unresponsive in the middle of a traffic stop, the two Tampa police officers at the scene essentially ignored his worsening medical condition. Rather than immediately administering CPR or summoning paramedics, the officers pinned the 63-year-old to the ground and handcuffed him, according to the lawsuit.
Several minutes later, the officers called for help and removed the handcuffs. But by the time Tampa Fire Rescue arrived at the scene, Green had stopped breathing and didn't have a pulse, according to the medical examiner's report.
"Mr. Green's death could have been avoided had he received appropriate and timely medical care," the lawsuit states.
Following Green's death, the Tampa Police Department said it would open an investigation into the incident. But a spokeswoman said the officers had likely followed department policy in handcuffing Green, who, police officers said, was "combative" and shoved one of the officers. A spokesperson for the agency did not answer questions about the lawsuit Wednesday.
Paul Rebein, Young's attorney, said a video from one of the officers' dashboard cameras captured Green's arrest.
"You see the officers command him to get out of the vehicle, and he doesn't do it because his mind is not operating as it should because his blood sugar is so low," Rebein said. "Somebody might think, 'Well, what else are the officers supposed to do?' But you don't automatically assume the person is a threat or a danger to somebody. This old man was treated as a criminal and taken to the ground."
First reported by the Tampa Bay Times in April, Green's encounter with Tampa police began as a routine traffic stop. About 4:30 p.m. April 16, a woman called 911 to report that the driver of a Lincoln Blackwood pickup truck was driving erratically near the intersection of N Central and E Idlewild avenues.
Officers found Green driving slowly southbound in the northbound lane and managed to stop his truck, but he refused to exit the vehicle, despite their repeated requests.
According to the lawsuit, within minutes of pulling Green over, Officer Anthony Portman suspected the confused man had a medical problem. Yet he and Cpl. Matt Smith "forcefully dragged" Green from his truck and "slammed him facedown on the pavement," the suit states.
At 4:45 p.m., according to the lawsuit, the officers called for medical help. Although paramedics tried to revive him, Green was pronounced dead that evening at St. Joseph's Hospital.
Contact Anna M. Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.