I don’t claim to know exactly how Lynn Weisberg feels, nearly two years after her son’s death, but I can empathize with her frustration in trying to get information about it.
Official sources — the Baltimore City Fire Department and the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems — have refused to discuss how emergency medical personnel treated Weisberg’s 44-year-old son, Jeremy Davidson, in the last 90 minutes of his life. The BCFD and the MIEMSS cited state law in denying my requests for the results of any investigations that might have taken place after Davidson’s death.
But even his mother can’t get answers to her questions.
“Did you know,” she asked, “that if one files a complaint with the Baltimore Fire Department and they investigate, they will call you and let you know they have finished their investigation, but they will not tell you the results of their investigation?”
While Weisberg has not seen an official report — again, assuming there is one — she has seen video from the body cameras worn by two police officers who responded to her son’s medical emergency on the night of Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. She shared the video with me and I shared it with an expert in emergency medical response. That expert, an EMS instructor and consultant, found “areas of concern” that I’ll detail in a minute. First, some background.
Jeremy Davidson lived alone in a third-floor apartment in Fells Point. By the fall of 2020, he had been furloughed for eight months from his job as an auctioneer because of the pandemic, but he expected to return to full-time work in the coming weeks. Davidson, said his mom, loved city life and he was an avid sports fan.
“Jeremy was also an alcoholic,” Weisberg told me. “He never drank during working hours but living in the city, alone and during COVID, did not help the situation. On Thursday, Oct. 22, he told me he had stopped drinking. His sister was getting married and he wanted to be clean and sober for her. We begged him to do this under supervision of a doctor, but Jeremy was a stubborn soul and swore he’d be fine and could do it himself.”
Two days later, Baltimore police officers and medics found him sprawled in the fourth-floor hallway of his apartment building, dressed only in boxer shorts. He was conscious and moving, but unable to stand or even sit up for very long, speaking incoherently with slurred speech.
A city officer, dispatched to the scene at 9:09 p.m., noted in his report that Davidson was having trouble breathing and appeared to be “intoxicated and disoriented.” The videos show two officers in the hallway, along with medics and firefighters. This was in the midst of the pandemic, a time of high stress for first responders. Still, I found it strange that the EMTs appeared to do little more than stand by while Davidson writhed on the hallway floor. One of the medics asked Davidson if he wanted to go to a hospital — protocol perhaps, but an odd question to ask someone in his condition.
I’m no expert. So I asked Harold Cohen to review the videos.
Before his retirement, Cohen had a long career as a firefighter and officer with the Baltimore County Fire Department. He’s been an instructor in emergency medical services at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg. He found “areas of concern” in the EMS response to Davidson. For one thing, he noticed that no one took Davidson’s vital signs, starting with his pulse, or his blood oxygen level with a device called a pulse oximeter. Also, Cohen noted, the team did not appear to have oxygen available and did not bring a cardiac monitor with them. “They didn’t do much,” Cohen said.
According to the police video, Davidson was placed on a gurney and taken from the apartment building at 9:39 p.m., about 17 minutes after the first responders arrived. Davidson went into cardiac arrest on the way to Johns Hopkins Hospital and died at 10:48 p.m.
“Maybe if they had done their job ... they could have gotten him to JHH sooner and maybe he would have had a chance to live,” his mother said. “They worked on him for over an hour but couldn’t bring him back. I sent the videos to [Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford] and told him everything. I got a call that they were investigating and someone would call me when they had finished interviewing each person there, but that I was not entitled to their findings.”
The medical examiner’s report, obtained by Weisberg, states that, while Davidson was not intoxicated, he experienced alcohol withdrawal, his condition complicated by “a toxic level of cyclobenzaprine,” a muscle relaxant Davidson had been prescribed to relieve pain while awaiting neck surgery.
His mother believes that the first responders showed minimal concern because they believed her son was drunk.
“Based on what I saw [in the videos], I would not have expected [Davidson] to die,” Cohen said. “That is why we assess vital signs, they may have yielded more information.”
Weisberg has consulted with attorneys about a lawsuit against the city, but they’ve discouraged her because of Maryland law that protects first responders from litigation. Besides, she says, she’s not after money, she’s after the truth. “Someone,” she says, “needs to be held accountable for this horror story and possibly unnecessary death.”