Family of teen prematurely declared dead: Could he have been saved?
Attorney Nenye Uche said he hopes the Chicago Fire Department will cooperate as the family looks for answers about the death of Erin Carey
By Paige Fry and Rosemary Sobol
CHICAGO —The attorney for the family of a critically wounded teen left unattended by paramedics said Wednesday he believes the boy could have lived if responders "did what they were supposed to do."
“It’s hard enough losing your child in such a mindless act as a shooting,” Nenye Uche told reporters Wednesday. “But I think, perhaps, it’s even worse knowing that your child’s life could’ve been saved if first responders, in this case paramedics, did what they were supposed to do, did what they were trained to do.”
Uche said he hopes the Chicago Fire Department will cooperate as the family seeks answers about the death of Erin Carey, 17, who was one of six people shot at a party on the Near West Side early Monday.
There are no immediate plans for a lawsuit, but Uche said he is sending a letter to the city asking that all "audio, video or other forensic evidence" about the response be preserved by fire and police officials. Any legal action "depends on their course of conduct," he said.
“The main focus of this family and this team is to get answers,” Uche said. “I think everybody in the city deserves to know.”
Carey and the others were shot after two cars circled the party in the 1300 block of South Loomis Street around 4:50 a.m. Monday, according to Chicago police. A sheet was draped over Carey's body as paramedics tended to other victims.
After about an hour, people at the edge of the crime scene noticed Carey’s arm and leg twitching. It was obvious he was breathing under the sheet. They yelled at paramedics, who performed chest compressions on the teen and lifted him into an ambulance.
He was taken to Stroger Hospital in “very critical condition” with a “catastrophic” wound to the head, according to police. A bullet and some fragments were removed from the boy’s head while he was on life support, according to the family’s pastor, who visited the hospital.
“I sat there and I kept saying, ‘Erin, breathe. Erin, live. C’mon, live,” said Erin's father, Eric Carey. “I got to the point that I was giving him orders, ‘Erin, live. You hear me? I need you to live. You have to live.’ ... Erin was a very obedient child, so when I give an order, Erin does it.”
His son was pronounced dead at 1:14 a.m. Tuesday, about 20 hours after he was shot, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Carey remembered how his son always said he looked just like his father. “Can you imagine being told every other day that that kid look just like you?” he said. “Now, to see your twin laying there? It’s devastating.”
Carey wondered if paramedics even checked his son’s pulse before a sheet was placed over his head. “I really think the Chicago Fire Department dropped the ball on my son,” he said.
The department has called the response “not acceptable” and said it is investigating whether any rules were violated. “It is not the policy of the Fire Department to leave people on the street, even if they are mortally wounded,” said department spokesman Larry Langford.
Langford said Tuesday that interviews still need to be done with paramedics and other department staffers who responded to the shooting. He said fire officials will also be reviewing emergency radio traffic, 911 calls and other information.
He said at least four ambulances responded to “multiple reports of victims” at locations around the 1300 block of South Loomis Street, adding there was no shortage of ambulances at the time.
It was not clear, however, how many supervisors were on the scene to manage the response. “We have to go over radio traffic, phone calls and GPS," Langford said. “The level of supervision and the actions of any supervisor is part of the investigation.’’
Carey's older sister, Erica, 32, said she was shocked by video of her brother lying on the pavement under a sheet. “I was angry, frustrated, confused," she said. "A bunch of questions. Just hurt.”
Her first priority is to remember the good times with her youngest brother, like when he bought one of his first designer belts: a Louis Vuitton. He had it adjusted for her and gave it to her as a present. Or how her brother always picked up the phone when she called, even if he was surrounded by friends.
They talked about girls, fashion and colleges he wanted to visit. She told him to keep his grades up and stay out of trouble. She wanted him to get out of Chicago as soon as possible.
“He told me, ‘Sis, it’s my last day of school today.’ He was excited,” Carey said of one of their last conversations. “I told him I’m just going to get you out of here.”
Her next priority is learning the details about what led to his death. “I love him. ... I just want to know the answers.”
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