‘Get Out!’: Short-of-breath Rochester Black Man Kicked Out of Ambulance After Grabbing EMT’s Arm In Panic Fatally Collapses as Responders Stand By, Family Sues

The family of a Black Rochester man who died two weeks after being refused proper medical care by emergency medical technicians and ordered out of an ambulance by police is suing all parties involved.

Julian Coleman, 48, collapsed with blood spilling from his mouth the night of Nov. 23, 2023, after EMTs from American Medical Response (AMR) called the police for assistance in having Coleman removed from their ambulance.

The technicians accused Coleman of being disorderly, but video footage shows Coleman explaining he was “freaking out” due to his inability to breathe.

Rochester Family Files Lawsuit After Black Father Having Difficulty Breathing Is Refused Medical Attention
Multiple investigations are underway into an incident in Rochester, New York, on Nov. 23, 2023, where a man was told to exit an ambulance, then collapsed in front of authorities who waited around before administering medical assistance. (Photo: Rochester Police)

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he will not get out of our truck and he’s got to go,” one of the EMTs tells the police when they arrive. The officers proceed to force Coleman to leave, and he struggles to explain, “I, I couldn’t breathe.”

“Honey, you told us you had pain from drinking water, and then you came in, and you jumped at me and my partner, and you demanded oxygen, and you would not let go of me,” the woman says in the footage.

“I was freaking out,” Coleman said. “You’d freak out too if you can’t breathe.”

“I hear you. I’d probably try to control myself a little better. I’m not gonna grab on anybody,” the officer replies. “We tried to help, honey, but the way that you got in here and the way that you jumped at us that was no way of somebody asking for help,” one of the EMTs also responds.

As he was visibly gasping for air, Coleman even asked the officers if they could take him to the hospital, to which one replied no.

The man is heard heaving and grunting, but the officer commands him to exit the vehicle, saying, “No games. Get out.”

Coleman then did as instructed, slowly stepping down from the ambulance and staggering to sit on a bench, where he is then totally ignored by all emergency responders standing around nearby.

Coleman then collapses and falls over, and the medical personnel and police still don’t react for 3 minutes. The family’s claim says it wasn’t until Officer Jonathan Nettnin walked over, shined a flashlight at Coleman, and told one paramedic that Coleman had blood coming out of his mouth that the gravely ill man received assistance. He died two weeks later, on Dec. 15.

Now, Coleman’s family wants those they deem responsible to pay. A federal lawsuit filed by Coleman’s estate on Thursday, June 27, names the city of Rochester, AMR, which is contracted with the city of Rochester, the EMTs, and Rochester police officers who were involved in the incident of violating Coleman’s civil rights.

According to the court filing obtained by Atlanta Black Star, Coleman called 911 requesting an ambulance earlier in the evening due to experiencing shortness of breath. When the AMR ambulance arrived at Seneca Avenue, where the incident took place, court docs say Coleman “panicked by his inability to breathe and grabbed the arm” of one of the EMTs.

“They knew that he was having trouble, and yet no one took any action for three minutes,” attorney Stephen Schwarz, who is representing the family, told ABC 13 WHAM in an interview. “Had he been given oxygen in the ambulance and taken to the hospital, he would be here today and not in the ground.”

A report by the Democrat & Chronicle says a Dec. 4 MRI showed Coleman had severe hypoxia and an anoxic brain injury, which indicates his brain had been deprived of oxygen. He never woke up, and doctors at Rochester General Hospital said his brain function was unlikely to recover, leading his family to take him off life support, the Democrat & Chronicle’s report continued.

“There are processes that are followed when that happens, and EMTs are trained to deal with that,” Schwarz said. “There was nothing that prevented the police officers, or one of them, from getting in the ambulance and driving to the hospital, and he’d be alive today if they had.”

According to Schwarz, the family was angered after seeing the video footage from police bodycams and other surveillance. The attorney also admitted his belief that race could have been a factor.

“If a middle-aged white person had the same issue, I’m not sure that it would have been ignored,” Schwarz said.

In January, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans called for answers and expressed his disappointment with how the situation was handled. “City residents are people, and they deserve to be treated humanely and with the same attention as anyone else,” Evans said, according to a report by Rochester First.

Evans also said it was his duty to release the blue light camera footage — video from cameras attached to street lamps — to the public. “I could not in good conscience know that we have blue light camera of this incident and not put it out there in the public.”

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