Waiting to Call 911 Is No Crime

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If you have to wonder whether to call 911 when a disruptive youth gets hurt during a restraint, the safe bet would be to make the call. But a Maryland judge ruled last month that even if youth workers waited so long to call that the youth died, they can’t be charge with reckless endangerment.

The ruling involves the death last year of an East Baltimore teen after he was physically restrained at Bowling Brook Preparatory School, which led to the closure of the facility, the development of new restraint regulations by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and charges against six youth workers. (See “Restraints that Kill,” May 2007.)

The staffers waited 41 minutes to call 911 after 17-year-old Isaiah Simmons became unresponsive, and they were accused of reckless endangerment. However, Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Michael M. Galloway ruled that the charge of reckless endangerment can’t be applied to failure to take action; it applies only to acts that lead to serious injury or death.

Galloway dismissed the misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, which carried up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, against five of the workers. (Charges against another one had been dropped.)

Prosecutors filed an appeal.

The FBI is pursuing a civil rights investigation, according to Richard J. Wolf, spokesman for the bureau’s Baltimore office.

The former school for adjudicated juveniles hailed the decision in a statement issued by board member Brian Hayden: “The Court agrees with us that our folks did nothing criminal or otherwise inappropriate, and, in fact, did everything within their power to save Isaiah.”

Simmons died after losing consciousness while Bowling Brook counselors restrained him for three hours, sometimes while pinning him face down on the floor. Simmons had been at the school for two weeks, after a conviction for robbery with a deadly weapon.