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How a Legal Nurse Consultant Uses Technology to Investigate a Shooting

How a Legal Nurse Consultant Uses Technology to Investigate a Shooting

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investigating a shootingThree men are in a bar. Two men are shot, and one is shot and stabbed. A medical helicopter is requested to airlift one of the victims. The remaining two victims are transported to the local hospital. What happened in that bar? How can technology answer the question?

Five days after this incident, a complaint was made to the state EMS licensing agency, alleging the emergency medical technicians (EMT) provided inadequate care, the patient was physically assaulted, and the ambulance was delayed in transporting him to the hospital.

A legal nurse consultant (LNC) began the investigation into the circumstances of this incident by requesting audio tapes, medical records, and any incident reports from the ambulance service. One of the victims alleged he was a victim of a hate crime when he was assaulted by the EMTs, now a potential civil rights violation.

Allegations of a criminal nature or a civil rights violation fall outside the state agency’s jurisdiction. The legal nurse consultant placed the initial investigation temporarily on hold because the criminal complaint took precedence.

The LNC contacted the police detective bureau investigating these most recent allegations and learned the complainant was scheduled to be interviewed later that day. The legal nurse consultant requested to observe the interview which was granted.

The LNC observed the complainant’s interview and witnessed first-hand the complainant’s answers to questions regarding the incident. The complainant informed the detectives not only about the alleged assault, but also about the treatment the EMTs provided to him. Meanwhile, other bar patrons were having a press conference with the media, describing the shooting incident and the chaotic scene.

While waiting to hear results from the detective bureau, the LNC performed a site visit to the local hospital and spoke with the hospital’s security supervisor. During this site visit, the LNC observed two security cameras monitoring the emergency department ambulance entrances and requested these video tapes. The supervisor informed the LNC that video tapes are usually available for approximately two weeks before they are taped over and synchronized with the hospital clocks which may have as much as a 5-minute discrepancy between them.

The LNC obtained the audio tapes and dispatcher logs. Upon review of Tape 1, background gunshots and screaming were heard when the 911 call was placed. Ambulances were requested. The legal nurse consultant also heard another dispatcher speaking to another unit dispatched to the scene which alerted the LNC to a second audio tape.

The investigation revealed the complainant made multiple cell phone calls, including some from the bar, the ambulance, the hospital, and while being transferred to the Level I Trauma center.  The complainant’s cell phone bill became instrumental in determining if a delay occurred and was requested as evidence.

The investigation took 6 months to complete, 24 witnesses to interview, and over 100 pieces of evidence identified. During this investigation, the LNC investigator was allowed to observe the police interview of the complainant prior to interviewing him.

Later when the complainant was interviewed some answers were inconsistent with those obtained during the police and media interviews. These inconsistencies were challenged and most of the interview responses became aligned with those from the police interview. The patient’s cell phone records and audio tape recordings placed the patient in certain locations and helped to determine a fairly accurate timeline of the events. The paramedic supervisor’s cell phone calls, cell records, and two-way radio communications marked critical times to the timeline.

The view of the hospital video tapes illustrated the patient’s pre-hospital treatment. The legal nurse consultant solved the case.

Modified from Enhance your Investigations Using Technology, The Journal of Legal Nurse Consulting, Fall 2011

We know that attorneys may ask for cell phone records to determine if a driver was talking on the phone during a car crash. But there is so much more information available that may help or hinder an attorney’s case: recorders, cameras and more!

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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