As an ambulance snaked its way through the University of Maryland’s campus, a police officer grew exasperated.
“They’re moving so f------ slow,” the policewoman said, “it’s pissing me off.”
The medics were coming for Jordan McNair, the 19-year-old offensive lineman who fell ill during football practice in College Park and ultimately died of heatstroke. Roughly 8½ minutes passed between the 911 call and the ambulance’s arrival at the Gossett Football Team House.
The body camera footage depicting the officers’ frustration was part of a trove of videos released by the university on Thursday in response to a Baltimore Sun Public Information Act request. The university also released surveillance footage showing McNair’s final football practice.
McNair, 19, died in June after suffering heatstroke during a May 29 conditioning drill. His death left the campus community in mourning and catalyzed a scandal that’s rocked the state flagship university for months, eventually leading to the firing of head football coach DJ Durkin and numerous athletic trainers. University president Wallace Loh has announced plans to retire at the end of this academic year.
The footage, taken from surveillance cameras stationed around the football practice field and body cameras, is largely redacted to protect McNair’s medical information. It was previously reviewed by Dr. Rod Walters, a sports medicine consultant hired to examine what happened to McNair. He used the video to help him reconstruct a troubling timeline: More than an hour passed between the time McNair started displaying initial heatstroke symptoms and when university officials called 911, Walters said in a report released Sept. 21.
Walters also determined that the athletic training staff did not take McNair’s temperature or immerse him in cold water, a technique researchers say has a 100 percent success rate when used to treat heatstroke.
His report also noted that first-responders were confused about where to drive the ambulance so that it could pick up McNair and take him to the hospital. Walters said the “failure to immediately send someone to meet the ambulance … is a failure to follow an established plan.”
Media outlets and others have been requesting access to this footage for months. Attorney Billy Murphy, who is representing McNair’s parents, has also been pushing for its release. The university denied these requests under the Maryland Public Information Act “pending the completion of an investigation being conducted by the Office of the Attorney General.” That investigation has now been completed, according to a letter sent Thursday by Laura Anderson Wright, the university associate general counsel.
“The University has provided the video footage to the family of Jordan McNair and they have had an opportunity to review it,” she wrote.
Typically, the athletic department films all football practices. Because McNair fell ill during a conditioning practice, the only footage available is from surveillance cameras. That means large swaths of the football field are obscured, and the video is recorded from across the street, making it difficult to make out specifics about what is happening.
Chunks of the video clips provided Thursday are redacted. Normal activity quickly becomes just a black screen with the word “REDACTED” written in red across the middle. One entire clip is blank. Anderson Wright wrote that this is because portions of the requested video contain McNair’s personal medical information.
The video shows conditioning drills beginning around 4:15 p.m. Dozens of players in workout clothes do squats and practice quick footwork.
The players eventually began making their way through 10 rounds of 110-yard runs, the video shows. McNair finished the first seven runs within a normal time, according to Walters’ report. By the eighth round, the trainers noticed he looked “exhausted,” Walters wrote, and McNair’s cramps and exhaustion were reported at 4:53 p.m.
By the final repetition, McNair was struggling, so his teammates “went to run with him and encourage him to complete the repetition,” the report states.
Just before 5 p.m., Walters found, athletic trainers began caring for McNair on the field. While cold-water immersion tanks are generally part of the field setup during practice, they were not there on May 29 because the football practice switched locations at the last minute.
Trainers reported him suffering from fatigue, back pain, cramps, hyperventilation and profuse sweating, according to Walters.
At 5:22 p.m., McNair was taken to the football field house — about 30 minutes passed between the onset of symptoms and the time he was removed from the field. At this point in the video, a green utility vehicle can be seen slowly moving toward the field house.
Inside the field house, Walters determined, McNair was placed on a large mat with his legs elevated. He reported having back cramps and feeling uncomfortable. The assistant athletic trainers were told to get cold towels to cool him down.
While the trainers worked to hydrate McNair and cool him with towels, he had a “drastic mood change” and began yelling — another sign of heatstroke. McNair then suffered a seizure.
Staff called 911 at 5:55 p.m., more than an hour after McNair first started showing symptoms on the field, according to Walters. Another 911 call went out at 6:02.
Body camera footage from 6:04 p.m. shows an officer going into the field house and questioning why medics were taking so long. The same officer goes back outside at 6:10 p.m. to see if the ambulance is close to arriving. She asks for the medics to be waved down toward the Gossett entrance.
At 6:14, a different officer tells a truck driver to move out of the road because “the ambulance is coming, like ASAP.”
McNair left for the hospital in an ambulance at 6:27 p.m, according to Walters.
University President Wallace Loh has publicly said the school takes “legal and moral responsibility for mistakes the training staff made” on the day McNair was hospitalized.