After losing her son to a fatal gunshot wound, a Pennsylvania mother was arrested while waiting to see her son for the very last time. Now, the mayor’s office is investigating why the woman and her family were barred from seeing her son in the first place.
When Cheirha Rankins got the call last Tuesday that her 18-year-old son had been shot, she raced to York Hospital to be at his side, the York Daily Record reported. At the time, she didn’t know if her son, Nylik Moore, was alive or dead but believed that hearing her voice might help him pull through.
“I thought I could save his life if he heard my voice,” Rankins said, bawling. “I just wanted him to hear my voice.”
Moore was pronounced dead about a half hour after he’d been shot, however. The bullet had entered his back and pierced his chest, critically wounding him.
Rankins and her family gathered outside the hospital’s emergency room, waiting nearly two hours without knowing the young man’s fate. The hospital was reportedly placed on lockdown as a standard security measure, as Moore was the victim of a violent crime, according to the newspaper.
What happened next is currently under investigation. As Rankins and her relatives waited outside, a deputy York County coroner was inside gathering evidence. Once she was done, she alerted hospital staff she wanted to allow Moore’s family inside to view the teen’s body before it was taken to the morgue, which lacked sufficient space for a large group.
“If we don’t do it, then the family won’t see their loved one until the body returns from the autopsy,” Coroner Pam Gay told the York Daily Record. “We try to do everything within our power to make that happen here.”
For unclear reasons, the deputy coroner was told Moore’s family wouldn’t be allowed in and was forced to deliver the news to the teen’s already anxious family — who was still waiting outside.
At some point, authorities said the crowd became unruly as they waited. Police arrested Rankins and took her to Central booking where she was charged with disorderly conduct. The citation was ultimately withdrawn, but Rankins said that hasn’t eased the pain of not being allowed to see her son.
It’s been over three days and the grieving mother said she’s still been unable to view Moore’s body.
“I just want to see him,” she sobbed.
Mayor Michael Helfrich’s chief of staff, Philip Given, said the mayor is actively working with the police chief and hospital staff in “trying to asses what happened.” Helfrich has asked police to hand over any video or body cam footage of the encounter with Moore’s family.
During the scuffle, Rankins’ fiancé, Lamar Sistrunk, reportedly asked an officer what he would do if Moore was his son and was met was with an insult.
“My son wouldn’t be in that predicament,” the officer allegedly said.
The hospital has since apologized for the incident and issued the following statement:
“These are our patients and our neighbors, and we’re deeply sorry for the pain they are experiencing. We believe strongly that family members should have the opportunity to be with their loved ones at these difficult times, and we regret that we didn’t make appropriate accommodations to ensure that occurred in this case. It was a very challenging and complex situation for all involved.”