Top Charlotte leader calls for changes to MEDIC dispatch policy after in-custody death

Man in police custody waited +20 minutes for ambulance while struggling to breathe
It took 22 minutes for MEDIC, Charlotte’s ambulance service, to respond to a man in police custody struggling to breathe last June
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 12:04 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte Mayor pro Tem Braxton Winston reiterated his call to re-evaluate how ambulances are dispatched in the wake of MEDIC’s response in the case of Jovontay Williams.

Williams died in police custody in June of last year. He was arrested by CMPD officers responding to a call about a man shooting a gun into a house and banging on the front door of a home.

Body camera video that was released at the request of WBTV Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner shows officers first called for an ambulance before taking Williams into custody.

Despite that, the video shows, it took more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on scene and reach Williams. By the time EMTs arrived, Williams was lethargic and needed help breathing.

MEDIC has said it operated what’s called a delayed response to Williams’ call.

Under that response plan, a MEDIC dispatcher determines that a fire engine should be dispatched to the call and not an ambulance. Once firefighters arrive on scene, they determine whether to call for an ambulance.

Previous: Charlotte man waited 22 minutes for medical attention after CMPD’s call for help

In Williams’ case, firefighters arrived on scene and reached Williams 11 minutes after the first call for MEDIC.

Records show firefighters then called for an ambulance to respond non-emergency, meaning without lights and sirens.

The body camera video shows firefighters did not check for a pulse on Williams and did nothing to ensure he was breathing properly.

When the ambulance arrived, EMTs began assisting Williams’ breathing with oxygen. By the time he arrived at the hospital, medical records show, he could not breathe on his own and doctors had trouble getting his blood pressure.

In an interview with WBTV on Monday, Winston, the mayor pro tem, said Williams’ case underscores the need to get an ambulance to emergency calls faster.

“When it comes down to it, this man needed to be transported to higher level of medical care,” Winston said.

“CMPD and the fire department, they are not able to do that. They actually could get, they could get in trouble for putting somebody in the back of a fire truck, for instance and taking them to help.”

By having a policy to send a fire engine without an ambulance, Winston said, MEDIC delayed medical help.

“My concern is that we need to look at our first response models in general and see how do we better serve the people of our community when they get when they call us for help,” Winston said.

Winston recently pressed MEDIC on their policy during a budget presentation to city council.

“I have concerns again about our first response model,” Winston said.

“I think there is some will within the City Council to look at how we’re serving our populations.”

In a joint statement issued to WBTV last week, CFD and MEDIC said the response to Williams’ case was under review.