Are officers obligated to provide medical aid at crime scenes?

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. As tough as it is to watch video of the shooting, some police critics say the crime scene is also disturbing.

In the dash cam video, another officer walks up to McDonald’s body, kicks a knife out of his hand, but offers no first aid.

“I think it's horrifying to watch young people die after being shot by the police and the police do nothing but stand there for minutes, half hour. It's ridiculous,” Jeffrey Granich.

Police did call for paramedics, but attorney Jeffrey Granich says that's not enough.

Granich represents the family of Marlon Horton, the unarmed 28-year-old man who was shot to death outside a West Side CHA building two years ago.

Horton was shot and killed after scuffling with two CHA security guards, one of whom was an off-duty police officer. Surveillance video shows both security guards on their cellphones after the shooting - one of them getting instructions on how to provide medical assistance.

“When they called 911 and explained the shooting, they were specifically told to apply pressure to the wound and keep him calm until they can arrive. And they simply drank coffee and let the guy bleed out at their feet,” Granich said. 

FOX 32’s Larry Yellen later asked then-superintendent McCarthy whether officers are obligated to provide first-aid after a shooting.

“Comforting somebody you were just in a life or death situation with is not an easy thing to do. The officers are going through trauma at that point. Most of them go for counseling after such an incident like that. The officer called 911, I think he fulfilled his obligation,” McCarthy said.

Police union president Dean Angelo agrees.

“Our officers are trained to dial or to call paramedics. They're not trained in first aid, they're not there to supply CPR or to stop the flow of blood,” Angelo said.

There's nothing, however, that prohibits officers from taking action.

Last spring, officers Marlene Rivera and Edwin Pagan saved the life of a teenager who'd been shot in his thigh in a drive-by shooting. The officers used the boy’s t-shirt  to slow the bleeding. They then used a belt as a makeshift tourniquet until paramedics arrived.

The officers were honored for their efforts. But under current law in Chicago and around the country, there was no obligation to help. 

Professor Richard Kling with Chicago Kent College of Law says officers in some Chicago suburbs now carry an anti-overdose drug called Naxalone to save people from dying in heroin cases. But cases of police providing medical aid are clearly the exception.

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