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Woman forcibly removed from hospital, later dies

Posted: 9:00 AM, Dec 23, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-23 14:00:11Z

Police expect autopsy results to be released Wednesday in the death of a woman who refused to leave a Florida hospital when doctors discharged her and collapsed when police arrested and forcibly removed her.

Barbara Dawson, 57, collapsed Monday while being escorted in handcuffs from the Liberty Calhoun Hospital, where she sought treatment for breathing difficulties, Blountstown police Chief Mark Mallory said Tuesday. An officer had arrested Dawson for disorderly conduct and trespassing, Mallory said.

Autopsy results should be released Wednesday, Mallory said. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials have been called in to investigate, department spokesman Steve Arthur said. He declined to comment further.

Mallory said 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 from The Associated Press on Tuesday night. The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Ruth Attaway, administrator and CEO of the 25-bed hospital, said staff did everything they could for Dawson.

"They did their best trying to save her," Attaway said. "Our staff was very aggressive with her treatment."

While doctors initially thought Dawson was stable and should be released, she felt as if she still had 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."

The Calhoun-Liberty County chapter of the NAACP held an emergency meeting 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 said he and others are glad state law enforcement officers are getting involved, "but we strongly believe the death was due to negligence by the police department and hospital."