A Blountstown, Florida police officer was cleared of all charges related to the death of a Black woman arrested and handcuffed after refusing to leave an area hospital.
State Attorney Glenn Hess said his office determined Officer John Tadlock’s actions were “appropriate under the circumstances and there was no criminal law violation,” in a May 16 letter to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Travis Lawson, the Associated Press reports.
Tadlock arrived at the Calhoun Liberty Hospital on December 21, where 57-year-old Barbara Dawson had been admitted for abdominal pain. Hospital staff called police when the patient would not leave following her discharge. According to a hospital report, Dawson became agitated when she was told the facility could do nothing more to help her and to seek help from another location.
Dawson was disconnected from her oxygen tank, and the responding officer forcibly removed her from the building.
Dash cam audio captured Tadlock’s conversation with Dawson in the room and during their walk to the patrol car outside.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. You can walk out of this hospital peacefully or I can take you out of the hospital,” he said as Dawson repeatedly complained that she could not breathe.
She collapsed in the hospital parking lot.
Dawson lay unresponsive for nearly 20 minutes before a physician readmitted her to the emergency room. A staff member could be heard saying the woman was OK while checking vital signs. Dawson later died of a blood clot in her lung.
The death drew national attention, sparking heavy criticism from family and community members who accused the officer and hospital staff of negligence.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration issued a $45,000 fine to the hospital for 10 deficiencies uncovered during its own investigation of the incident. The emergency room supervisor, an additional nurse and a paramedic were fired.
Blountstown Police Chief Mark Mallory defended Tadlock for following the lead of doctors and nurses who assured him that Dawson was in stable condition.
“The loss of anybody’s loved one is still a tragedy,” he said. “I just don’t believe that there was any action by the police that led to any of Ms. Dawson’s conditions.”
Family attorney Benjamin Crump has not released a statement on the decision.