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Disclaimer: This article includes a video that some viewers may find disturbing.
Two EMS workers from Sangamon County in Illinois are facing first-degree murder charges after authorities accused them of incorrectly placing a patient face down on a stretcher and strapping him down across his back to transport him to the hospital.
The pair, Peter Cadigan, 50, and Peggy Finley, 44, employees for LifeStar Ambulance Service, are accused of causing the death of 35-year Earl Moore Jr., who was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital on December 18, 2022. The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was “compressional and positional asphyxia due to prone face-down restraint on a paramedic transportation cot/stretcher by tightened straps across the back.” As a result, the death has been ruled a homicide.
While no details about Moore’s medical condition prior to the ambulance being called were given in the press conference by local authorities other than that EMS was called for “medical distress” at his home a police video of the incident from the Sangamon County Government channel appears to show that police were initially called to the home. Officers arrived at the house around 2 AM.
A woman comes to the door and announces that a man inside is “hallucinating” as a result of “drunk hallucinations” and going through alcohol withdrawal after not having alcohol for four days. She tells the police officer that the man called the police himself for “no reason,” then adds that she also thinks he needs help because he’s “seeing things that aren’t there” and “hearing voices in his head.”
When the police enter the room, the man she identified as Earl is lying on the bed and cannot respond appropriately to the officers at first, instead repeating his address over and over to them. One of the officers explains that he wants to call an ambulance to have him checked out. “Looks like you’re having some kind of problems,” the officer says compassionately. “Been trying to get off the booze a little bit? That sh*t ain’t easy cold turkey, man. That’s messing you up real bad right now.”
Earl is in obvious distress but is able to sit up and ask the officers for water. The officer also comments that he is “sweating up a storm.” After several minutes, Earl rolls off the bed onto the floor, which is where he was when EMS arrived.
As soon as the female EMS worker arrives, she yells at Earl to sit up. “Quit acting stupid. I am not playing with you tonight,” she adds. “You’re going to have to walk ‘cuz we ain’t carrying you. I am seriously not in the mood for this dumb sh*t,” she continues.
Earl attempts to walk out the door, falls to the floor once, and then is assisted by two of the officers to walk out of the door. He collapses again in another part of the house. “You can walk, get up,” the female EMS worker says again. At no point does the female EMS worker try to assist Moore, although the officers physically help in several instances.
The officers encourage Earl to get up and help him walk the last remaining steps to the door where the stretcher is waiting. “You can fall facefirst on that cot,” one officer says. Once outside, an officer and the male EMS worker help a still-struggling Earl climb onto the cot on his stomach, where the male worker forcefully pushes him down the rest of the way so he is face-down on the stretcher.
Both workers then affix two straps across Earl, on his lower and upper body as the officers watch, before they wheel him to the ambulance.
One of the officers comments that he wants to make sure Earl makes it into the ambulance. “He’ll find a way to deadweight off that thing,” he chuckles.
“Oh they strapped him in good,” the other officer replies as they both laugh.
Unfortunately, it’s the very way that Earl was “strapped in good” that authorities say was a direct contributor to his death on the way to the hospital. Earl was pronounced deceased shortly after arriving at the hospital at 3:14 AM, Fox8 News reported. Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright said in the press conference that the EMS team should have known that a face-down position with straps across their back for a patient in distress could have created a substantial probability of great bodily harm or death.”
NBC News reported that Police Chief Ken Scarlette was the one to request an independent investigation by the Illinois State Police after hearing that Moore had died. Wright also added that the workers “did act without lawful justification” in how they positioned Moore and in placing “tightened restraints” on him.
Officially, Cadigan and Finley were charged with first-degree murder and have been booked into a local county Jail on a $1 million bond each. If found guilty, each worker faces up to 60 years in prison. First-degree murder is generally defined as murder that is the “intentional killing of another person by someone who has acted willfully, deliberately, or with planning.”
Reactions on social media have been mixed, with some commenting that the police officers should have intervened and not allowed Moore to be placed face-down on the stretcher, while others defended the officers as acting compassionately and not being the ones in charge of medical decisions.
Former and current paramedic workers also chimed in and commented that the EMS workers made clear and grave errors in failing to assess the patient as well as in how they decided to transport him and leave him prone on the stretcher.
Some commenters who said they were healthcare workers even admitted that while they certainly understand getting burnt out at the job and facing challenging patients while at work, at the minimum, maintaining a patient’s airway is still a very basic part of the job that should be something an EMS worker does without really even thinking about it, so it is very puzzling that both workers made the decision to leave him face-down on a cot with straps.
As of press time, neither EMS worker accused nor the ambulance company has released a statement. “It’s still under investigation so we’re not allowed to talk about it,” Lifestar Ambulance Service told PEOPLE.