An internal affairs investigation conducted by the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) determined that one of its first responders failed to assess and attend to a patient in acute respiratory distress. The investigation also alleges that the paramedic falsified reports in an attempt to cover up his failings.
Although no criminal charges have been filed, the medical examiner’s office has classified the victim’s death as a homicide. The office further clarified that although the man’s death was the result of another person’s harmful actions, it is not clear that those harmful actions were intentional.
Under Illinois state law, a person’s negligent actions do not have to be intentional or made with malice for them to be held civilly liable for the harm they’ve caused. Thomas Law Offices is a proud legal advocate for families who have lost loved ones because of the negligent, reckless, or wrongful actions of another person. If your family is in need of caring legal guidance following the unexpected loss of a loved one, please contact our law office as soon as possible.
What Happened in Buena Park, Chicago?
On Aug. 31, 2022, paramedics from the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) were called to the Buena Park neighborhood, where police were responding to reports of a nude man lying in a parking lot. The man was 44-year-old Leonardo Guerrero, who told police that he felt like he was dying and, according to a CFD investigation, was suffering from a respiratory crisis at the time.
CFD’s internal investigation determined that paramedics Joseph Schultz & Dakota Ibrahim did not behave appropriately from the very beginning when they exited the ambulance without any equipment. They provided no on-scene assessments to Guerrero. When the two decided he needed to be transported to the hospital, the paramedics had him stand and walk 50 feet to the waiting ambulance even as he struggled to breathe.
By the time the ambulance reached the hospital only minutes later, Guerrero had passed away.
A Timeline of Events
The results of the CFD’s investigation, footage from police body cam, and autopsy results created a timeline of what went wrong in the period of time leading to and after Guerrero’s death:
- Guerrero attempted to exit the ambulance, at which point he was forcibly strapped and handcuffed to a stretcher.
- Schultz began driving the ambulance to Thorek Memorial Hospital. Ibrahim and a police officer sat next to Guerrero.
- Police body cam footage showed that Ibrahim failed to assess Guerrero’s condition or render aid even though he was gasping for air and moving in and out of consciousness.
- Ibrahim chatted with the officer for the duration of the three-minute ambulance ride.
- Upon arrival at the hospital, Schultz noted that Guerrero appeared to be calm despite having been agitated only minutes before. Guerrero was not moving.
- Schultz asked if Guerrero was still alive. Without checking, Ibrahim replied, “Yes.”
- Ibrahim instructed Schultz to notify the emergency room that they had arrived. Ibrahim spent approximately five minutes filling out paperwork without assessing or trying to communicate with Guerrero.
- A police officer noted that Guerrero did not appear to be breathing.
- For the first time, Ibrahim checked Guerrero for a pulse, found none, and then loosened the straps used to restrain him.
- Ibrahim shut the door of the ambulance and began performing CPR.
- Guerrero was transferred to the emergency room and pronounced dead.
- Ibrahim falsely informed emergency room personnel that Guerrero had coded right as they had pulled in.
In addition to the above failings, the CFD also determined that there were several false statements in Ibrahim’s patient care report about the incident. For example, the Fire Department’s protocol requires paramedics to notify hospitals by phone prior to arriving with a patient. Ibrahim wrote that he had called the hospital three times, but he was never seen on the police body cam footage making any attempt to do so. He was later captured on video telling Schultz that he had not called.
The patient care report allegedly also falsely claimed that Guerrero was combative, which prevented Ibrahim from assessing him. Although he appeared agitated on body cam footage, the CFD determined that there was no point at which he was combative and unable to be assessed and cared for. The report falsely asserted that Guerrero was uninjured, too, despite body cam footage clearly showing bleeding wounds on both his knees.
The results of Guerrero’s autopsy showed that his death was caused by a combination of restraints and drug and alcohol use.
Chicago Fire Department Paramedics Fired and Suspended
Following the results of the investigation, Ibrahim was fired from the CFD. His paramedic license was suspended for a period of six months. Schultz was suspended from his position at the CFD, and his license was suspended for three months.
What Care Are Paramedics Obligated To Provide?
According to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) paramedics have an obligation to follow a code of professional ethics, which includes taking action “to conserve life, alleviate suffering, promote health, do no harm, and encourage the quality and equal availability of emergency medical care.”
Like all those in the health care system, paramedics owe the people they treat a duty of care. Any violation of this duty of care can result in significant harm, injury, or even death to patients.
Thomas Law Offices Stands Up for Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones
No family should ever have to learn that their loved one’s death could have been prevented with proper medical care and attention. When we meet with Chicago families, we are acutely aware that they are still in the grieving process and need a compassionate attorney upon whom they can rely.
In all that we do, we strive to provide knowledgeable, empathetic, and experienced legal representation to families who are pursuing wrongful death claims on behalf of those they have lost. We also know that finances can be stretched thin in the aftermath of a sudden death, which is why our law firm takes most of these cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you don’t owe us anything unless we win your case for you.
Our first meeting is free. For an opportunity to discuss your loved one’s life and the legal options at your disposal, please contact our law office for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.