A 29-year-old Missouri woman died in a jail cell after local hospital staff told police that she was trespassing for complaining about continual pain after receiving a clean bill of health. After community residents spoke about potential racial profiling being at play, the hospital staff recently defended the way they treated the African-American woman, identified as Anna Brown.
On Sept. 21, a homeless Brown refused to leave the St. Mary's Health Center emergency room in Richmond Heights, Mo., after complaining about pain in her legs that kept her from walking. However, the hospital staff called the police, who believed that she might have been on drugs and arrested her for trespassing.
Brown had already been examined before police were called to the scene and doctors said she was healthy enough to be taken to jail. After police reportedly dragged the 29-year-old to jail by her hands and feet, because she could not walk, she died minutes later in her cell.
"They thought she was a drug seeker," an officer said in a Los Angeles Times report.
However, an autopsy report found no drugs in Brown's system. Instead, they found blood clots in her legs and lungs that went untreated by doctors.
According to an investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Brown first visited St. Mary's on Sept. 20 with a swollen ankle. During her seven-hour stay she was given ultrasounds on both legs, which reportedly came back negative for blood clots. The investigation also revealed that the 29-year-old mother of two returned twice more to St. Mary's, and refused to leave on the final visit.
It was when police officers called to the scene reportedly received a "Fit for Confinement" clearance from a doctor that she was dragged off to jail for trespassing.
The Associated Press reports that Brown had visited two other hospitals complaining of leg pain before visiting St. Mary's and being arrested.
Brown's sister, Krystle Brown, said the 29-year-old died because of profiling by the police and hospital staff.
"She was not a drug dealer or a hooker or doing other things that she could've ended up dead for," Brown said of her dead sister, according the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "People assume things because of the way they talk or the way they live or the things they do. My sister is not here today because people passed judgment."
Although the incident took place six months ago, the Post-Dispatch launched an investigative report and its findings sparked outrage in the community. People took to Twitter to express concern about Brown's death.
"RIP to Anna Brown," one person tweeted. "Doesn't help the racial climates rising in the US due to the Trayvon case!"
"Police brutality is getting out of hand," tweeted another.
However, acting Police Chief Maj. Roy Wright blamed St. Mary's Health Center for Brown's death and said his staff did their job.
"A lot of times people don't want to stay in jail and will claim to be sick," Wright told the Post-Dispatch. "We depend on medical officials to tell us they're OK."
Still, the hospital that refused to treat Brown after continued complaints said they did nothing wrong.
Kate Becker, president of St. Mary's Health Center, released a videotaped statement that was posted on the hospital's website Thursday.
"The staff at St. Mary's has heard the outrage being expressed about this tragic event," Becker stated. "We followed established medical guidelines and performed appropriate tests. Unfortunately, even with appropriate testing using sophisticated technology, blood clots can still be undetected in a small number of cases."
Brown's family has reportedly hired an attorney to look into the case.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed that Brown and her two children were made homeless in 2010 when a tornado destroyed their St. Louis home, and again when financial hardship made it difficult for her to keep their next home. Brown's children eventually moved in with her mother, Dorothy Davis. The Post-Dispatch reports Brown lived in homeless shelters from May to September, as the local child welfare agency claimed she was guilty of neglecting her children and was not allowed to live with them.
Davis said her daughter called her children everyday.
"If the police killed my daughter, I want to know. If the hospital is at fault, I want to know. I want to be able to tell her children why their mother isn't here," said Davis.