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DIGGING DEEPER: David Smith case may have been “high-risk refusal,” expert says

It’s been three weeks since a wanted Peoria man was arrested by police and reported unconscious in their custody.

David Smith, the suspect in an armed robbery on the day of his arrest, died hours after police brought him to the station.

Now family and their supporters are demanding answers about what really happened that day.

Smith died of a cardiac event from a heart arrhythmia. But could officers and EMT’s have done more to save him? We reviewed nearly 100 pages of police reports from his arrest and the answer still isn’t clear.

Initially only Peoria Police Officers were being investigated by Illinois State Police after the video surfaced. But in the weeks since David Smith’s arrest, Andrew Rand, CEO of Advanced Medical Transport said they’ve also been placed under the microscope.

“They could’ve helped my brother. My brother would still be here today if they would’ve helped my brother.” said Smith’s sister Keondra Fluker

Fluker and Smith’s mother Vernice Fluker said they’re frustrated with the lack of communication from police about what happened October 28th

“Right now, I just wanna know, what exactly happened to my son.” said Vernice Fluker

Peoria Police said Smith was caught on camera robbing a convenience store at gunpoint. Afterward officers found him lying on his side in a nearby yard and handcuffed him. But some members of the community expressed outrage when the video went viral of officers appearing to drag an unconscious Smith. Although police claim Smith actually refused to stand up.

We tried to ask the paramedics involved for clarification on these differing accounts. But Andrew Rand with AMT said they can’t even correct misinformation because medical records are private.

“I read a piece in the newspaper that I clearly think is a highly misinformed document…but because we have a duty to protect the records of our treatment and interactions, we can’t make any comments on any of that.” said Rand

For Smith’s Family, closure may be a long time coming because even though he’s passed, due to patient confidentiality laws they still can’t access his medical records.

“The law is never as modern as the moment. It’s pretty hard not to feel like you wanna bend a rule to accommodate someone’s emotional attachment during a period of grieving like this.” said Rand

But what about protocols? Were they followed? We turned to Jeff Hall, a local attorney unaffiliated with the case.

“If I were looking into this case then I’d wanna check the body cams.” said Hall

Police reports state when paramedics asked Smith if he wanted to go to a hospital he ‘didn’t answer’ and because AMT said his vital signs were normal they had an officer sign a refusal form on Smith’s behalf taking him to police headquarters where he was determined to be unconscious.

But Hall said there’s a chance another step involving a call to the hospital may have been missed.

“A medical control unit is supposed to be called if one of their observations fall under a high risk refusal.” said Hall

Officers recorded smith ‘breathing heavily,  mumbling and going in and out of consciousness.’ A toxicology report also lists Smith blood alcohol level to be .22

Both of those are on the list that would bump a patient to high risk refusal requiring the extra call, but AMT disputes Smith was high risk, based on the vitals taken after his arrest.

“A person in custody died – so that’s a red flag and we have to peel back the layers.” said Hall

We are hoping to get more answers when the body cam footage is released, but Peoria Police Records Department said that won’t be available until the investigation is over.

Kaitlin Pearson

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