Case Of 'Dead' Man Is Under Review

Misdiagnosis Of Suspect First Of Its Kind, Fire Officials Say

August 04, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

A burglary suspect pronounced dead by medical technicians after he was shot in the head by police lay for about 30 minutes on the floor of a Northwest Baltimore convenience store before officers noticed he was alive, city police said Monday.

A spokesman for the city Fire Department, which oversees emergency medical personnel units, said it was the first misdiagnosis of its kind he could recall in the past five years.

Department officials are conducting an internal investigation into the incident, according to Chief Kevin Cartwright, the spokesman. He declined to identify the medics involved but said they have been reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation and could face a permanent change in assignment.

The burglary suspect, Michael Richard Quarles, 51, remained at Sinai Hospital and was listed in critical condition Monday afternoon.

"Anything as such can certainly have a negative reflection [on the department]," Cartwright said. "However, the service we provide historically reflects the quality and standard of care we exemplify throughout the department. We certainly will be giving this incident all due attention."

The department isn't commenting on the specifics of the case, but Cartwright said medics typically perform a series of checks that take less than a minute to determine if someone is still alive.

He said medical technicians generally first look to see if the victim is breathing through the rise and fall of the chest, or if air is coming from the mouth or nose. Medical technicians then check for a pulse in the neck.

Cartwright said Baltimore hosts an annual fire department expo that draws about 16,000 firefighters and medical personnel each year, and that the city's EMT department is regarded as one of the best in the country.

Bob Sledgeski, president of the firefighters' union Local 734, which represents medical technicians, said he did not want to talk about the incident until the investigation is complete. He did say paramedics generally work the night shift from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., and that the incident seemed to happen near the end of a shift.

City medic units usually handle anywhere from eight to 15 calls a night, he said.

"The paramedics here work in one of the most overtaxed systems in the country in one of the most violent cities in the country," Sledgeski said. "They're pushed to the limit."

About 4:30 a.m. Saturday, Northwestern District police responding to a burglary at Shon's Food Market in the 4700 block of Garrison Blvd. in West Arlington encountered Quarles inside the store. Quarles lunged at the officers with a long screwdriver that officers thought was a knife, according to Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. One officer, who police are not identifying citing department policy, fired at least one shot from his .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun, hitting Quarles in the head.

Fire officials said Quarles' body was awaiting transport to the medical examiner's office when police observed the man either moving or making sounds and requested the same medics return to the scene.

Guglielmi said charges are pending against Quarles. The officer who shot Quarles is a 16-year veteran of the department. He has not been involved in any previous shootings and has been placed on administrative leave, Gugliemi said.

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