TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A woman who refused to leave a hospital when doctors discharged her died after she was forcibly removed by police, authorities said Tuesday.
Barbara Dawson, 57, collapsed Monday while being escorted in handcuffs from the Liberty Calhoun Hospital, where she went to seek treatment for breathing difficulties, said Blountstown Police Department chief Mark Mallory. Mallory said an officer had arrested Dawson for disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Mallory said in a statement Wednesday that the medical examiner's office found that Dawson died from blood clots due to being excessively overweight.
The autopsy report, police report and dashcam footage of the incident have not been released to the public.
Mallory said that the officer who arrested Dawson removed the handcuffs after she collapsed and escorted her back into the hospital.
"We were told by a doctor once she got back in the hospital that her vital signs were good and it was their decision to readmit her," he said. He said dashcam footage from the officer's car does not show the incident but does pick up the audio.
Hospital officials did not return telephone calls Tuesday night. Ruth Attaway, administrator and CEO of the hospital, was quoted by The Tallahassee Democrat as saying that staff did everything they could to save Dawson.
"They did their best trying to save her," Attaway said. "Our staff was very aggressive with her treatment."
Dawson's family told CBS affiliate WCTV in Tallahassee she used an oxygen tank all the time. Her family said she came to the hospital on Sunday night complaining of stomach pains.
While doctors initially thought Dawson was stable and should be released, she felt like she was still having breathing issues and wanted to stay, said Tallahassee attorney Daryl Parks, who is representing Dawson's family.
"The most reasonable thing to do is to let her sit there and be able to settle down until she felt well. Instead, she is forcibly removed and put in cuffs," Parks said. "The early facts of this case should cause a great concern for everyone."
Dawson's family said she wasn't ready to leave the hospital because she was still in pain.
The Calhoun-Liberty County chapter of the NAACP held an emergency meeting on Tuesday. Dale R. Landry, who is the regional vice president for the Florida State chapter of the NAACP, met with local leaders and the family.
Landry told WCTV: "Justice is those that were responsible for her death, especially negligent homicide, they need to be held accountable in a court of law. And then, if her death was wrongfully determined, then somehow, someway, there needs to be some sort of recompense to the family. Because here we have an innocent person taken into custody and now they've lost their life when all they did was come and ask for medical help."