PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A mother says her 15-year-old daughter died of anoxic brain injury because police wouldn’t let her take the girl to the hospital.
Lizzette Vargas says her daughter, Tabitha, suffered a severe asthma attack just before midnight on Aug. 19, 2009.
After waiting in vain for an ambulance to respond to her 911 call, and seeing Tabitha’s condition go from bad to worse, Vargas says she accompanied her daughter in a friend’s car, to be driven to nearby Temple University Hospital.
But as the driver pulled out of the parking space, a Philadelphia Police patrol car pulled up next to them, “preventing her from leaving and taking Tabitha to the Hospital,” the mother says.
A second patrol car pulled up behind them, preventing them from backing up. Then “a white male officer from the first Philadelphia Patrol vehicle got out of his car and started yelling and commanding everyone to ‘get the fuck out'” of the car, Vargas says.
“This same officer then opened the back door of the vehicle and Tabitha fell out, thereby making Tabitha’s serious medical condition obvious and apparent to the said police officers at the scene.”
But despite pleas from the distraught mother, the driver, and another friend in the car, the “Philadelphia Police officers on the scene refused to allow plaintiff and/or any other individuals to take Tabitha for the urgent medical care that she required despite their own observations of Tabitha’s conditions and their being told by others of her serious condition,” the mother says.
Fifteen minutes later, medics arrived, “at which time one of the medics examined Tabitha and related that it was his opinion she was now dead,” the mom says.
Vargas says the Philadelphia EMS van took Tabitha to the hospital after she was brain dead, from lack of oxygen. She was taken off life support on Aug. 26, and died.
Vargas seeks damages for civil rights violations. She is represented by James Hockenberry with Rovner Allen Rovner Zimmerman & Nash of Feasterville, Pa.
A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Police Department said she could not comment on pending litigation. The plaintiff’s attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.