The family of a Belcamp man, who died during a medical emergency in November 2011, is claiming in a multi-million-dollar wrongful death suit filed Tuesday that a Harford County sheriff's deputy's alleged order to stop a neighbor from performing CPR on the man directly led to his death.
The suit was filed in Harford County Circuit Court by the family of the late Rev. Bob Tompkins of the 1200 block of Magness Court in Belcamp, including his wife, Mary Larraine Tompkins, and his children, Matthew K. Tompkins, of the 200 block of Fairwood Road in Bel Air, and Amanda R. McMahan, of the 2200 block of Williams Lane in Havre de Grace. The defendants in the suit are the Harford County Sheriff's Office and DFC Ronnell Webb.
According to the suit filed on behalf of the family by the Baltimore law firm of David Ellen, P.C., on Nov. 11, 2011, Michael Johnson, a neighbor, found Rev. Tompkins, who was 57, lying face down on the ground near Rev. Tompkins' home and began CPR.
Deputy Webb arrived before paramedics and allegedly told Johnson to stop his resuscitation efforts, "despite the fact that witnesses attested Rev. Tompkins was responding favorably to CPR, was breathing and regaining color," according to the suit.
Rev. Tompkins died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, where he was transported by emergency medical personnel who arrived after the deputy, according to the suit.
"Had Mr. Johnson not been prevented by Defendant DFC Webb from continuing to provide CPR to Reverend Tompkins, he more than likely than not would have survived," the suit claims.
The suit seeks damages on multiple counts on behalf of Rev. Tompkins' wife and children for his wrongful death, as well as damages for multiple counts of alleged negligence by the deputy and by sheriff's office for hiring him.
The suit also claims Rev. Tompkins was "left in a medically precarious state, unaided and left to suffer cardiac arrest on his front lawn, without CPR for a period of minutes before paramedics arrived on scene" and that Webb owed Rev. Tompkins "a duty to not interfere with the rendering of life-saving CPR that was being performed" on him.
The suit also holds the sheriff's office responsible because it "failed to properly instruct, supervise, control or discipline on a contusing basis" Webb in his duties regarding stopping emergency medical attention.
Webb has been a sheriff's deputy for three years, assigned to the Police Services Bureau, or patrol, Monica Worrell, spokesperson for the sheriff's office said Tuesday, referring all questions about the suit to the Harford County Law Department.
"The Harford County Sheriff's Office does not comment on pending litigation," Worrell said. Harford County Attorney Robert McCord could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Ellin, the Tompkins family's attorney, said he and the plaintiffs and those present at the scene don't know why Johnson was allegedly told by the deputy to cease performing CPR.
"We are still trying to figure that out," he said. "All we know is the deputy told him 'you have to stop' and ordered him off. The guy [Johnson] was quite upset, but the deputy refused to let him continue."
Ellin added that Webb as in uniform and armed and that "over six minutes" elapsed between the time the CPR stopped and emergency medical personnel arrived.
Had Johnson been allowed to continue, Ellin said, "in all likelihood Rev. Thomkins would have survived."
Ellin said there is an emergency medical services report on the incident, as well as a 911 recording; however, he said he has not found evidence the sheriff's office made a formal report of the incident.
The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial.
According to his death notice published in The Aegis, Rev. Tomkins was a Baptist minister who was pastor of the Church at Riverside for 18 years and was pastor, education director and deacon chair at the First Baptist Church of Havre de Grace.