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'They left him just laying there': Neighbors question time police took to aid Baltimore shooting victim

After hearing gunshots, Karida Collins turned off the lights in her East Baltimore home and peeked through the blinds of her living room.

Outside a man lay face down on the sidewalk. Around him, she said, police officers used flashlights to search for bullet casings.

“They left him just laying there like litter, like trash,” said Collins, who filed a complaint about the medical response with police.

She and other neighbors on East Preston Street say they are disturbed by the time it took — at least six minutes that evening of Aug. 22, they say — for first responders to begin medical treatment on Darrell Jackson, 34, who later died at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Police said he had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Police spokeswoman Nicole Monroe said Tuesday that “sadly, sometimes when you arrive, the injury is so catastrophic ... it is out of the scope of your training and ability to be helpful at that point.”

Two other men, ages 26 and 33, were shot on the same block that night. They went on their own to area hospitals, each with a gunshot wound to the foot, police said.

Denise Frank, who lives just a few doors away from Collins, also objected to the actions of police on the scene.

“They went to look for bullet casings. That’s what they were focusing on,” Frank said. They “didn’t check for a pulse.”

Monroe said officers are trained to help victims.

“We have officers that apply tourniquets, do chest compressions and render aid to people in need,” she said.

But Jackson’s wounds were to the neck and to the chest — both places where a tourniquet could not be applied, Monroe said.

Officers received the call about Jackson’s shooting at 9:23 p.m. and he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later at the hospital, she said.

After Collins complained and met with police to voice her concerns about the medical response, police said they were investigating the incident, but the results of internal investigations are not made public. The department also has not publicly released body camera footage from the incident.

According to departmental policy, Baltimore police officers should render aid and provide medical assistance after ensuring a crime scene is safe. Such steps should happen before any official investigation begins.

For arriving officers, “their first concern is to make the scene safe for everyone involved, including themselves,” said Frank Straub, director of strategic studies for the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve policing strategies.

Straub, a former police chief in Spokane, Wash., and former public safety commissioner for White Plains, N.Y., said he wants to see a national protocol for how police are to respond to traumatic injuries. Some, usually smaller, departments offer extensive trauma care training to officers, he said. Larger departments might be more likely to take a hands-off approach, with officers directed to wait for a medic to arrive, he said.

"To be brutally honest, some officers just refuse to render aid to somebody’s who’s injured," Straub said. "I don’t think that's right."

Monroe acknowledged that several recent scandals had shaken some people’s faith in the Baltimore Police Department, and many assume the worst about officer behavior.

“People are distrustful of the police, understandably,” Monroe said.

Still, she said, this was the first instance in her 24 years on the force that she had heard a resident say that first responders failed to give appropriate medical care.

“Not rendering aid is not something that is an issue, or something that we've had complaints of officers doing,” she said.

More frequently, residents complain that officers take too long to respond to non-emergency calls. With staffing shortages throughout the department, officers must prioritize calls to ensure that units are able to respond quickly to shootings or other incidents where residents’ lives are in danger.

The department is working to improve response times by making it easier and faster to file police reports over the phone, she said. Instead of having desk officers in individual districts, police will field calls from a centralized office at police headquarters.

“Hopefully this is something that can help reports and give some relief to patrol,” she said. “Most people do like it.”

The night of the shooting, Collins wrote a Facebook post criticizing the police response. The post has since been shared more than 100 times. She copied it and sent it to the mayor’s office as well as the Police Department.

Of her subsequent meeting with police to discuss the matter, she said: “It was fine, I guess. It seemed very by-the-book.”

Police said they had not made any arrests in the shooting.

When Jackson, her fiance, didn’t come home on Aug. 22, Samantha Kirchoff spent all night on the phone calling police and area hospitals, hoping for answers. She’d just spoken to him at 9 p.m., he was on his way home, blocks from their house, about to pick up some milk at the corner store.

The couple met in the Eastern Shore and had been together for five years. Kirchoff was still very much in love. “His personality, his smile his enjoyment for life, his looks -- everything. He was like no one I’ve ever met in my life.”

It wasn’t until the following morning that Kirchoff learned from police that Jackson had been killed. Now seven months pregnant with their third child, she says, she struggles to understand why anyone would have harmed someone she calls a “wonderful man who took care of his family.”

While she’s disturbed by neighbors’ accounts of what happened — and wonders if there had been more police could have done for him — Kirchoff’s focus is on her grief, and her young children. The 2-year-old, Kirchoff says, picks up a picture of her dad and says, “Miss Daddy.” “I have to tell my 2-year-old that her daddy is an angel. That’s what she says now, ‘Daddy angel.’”

ctkacik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/xtinatkacik

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