Paramedics under investigation after mistaking shot teen for dead

Erin Carey, who was shot in the head and severely wounded, was covered with a sheet and left unattended as paramedics treated others hit by gunfire at a party

By Paige Fry, Jeremy Gorner and Madeline Buckley
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO —The Chicago Fire Department said Tuesday it was “not acceptable” for paramedics to leave a teen unattended after he was shot in the head and severely wounded as they treated others hit by gunfire at a party on the Near West Side this week.

“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.

Erin Carey was pronounced dead about 20 hours after being shot at a party.
Erin Carey was pronounced dead about 20 hours after being shot at a party. (Photo/Evanston Township High School)

Asked whether the department would discipline any responders, Langford said, “Our investigation will determine if any rules were violated which may have contributed to this delay.”

Erin Carey, 17, was among six people who were shot after two cars circled a party in the University Village neighborhood around 4:50 a.m. Monday, according to Chicago police. A sheet was draped over his body — his bare arms, jean cuffs and boots exposed — 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.

“Get up,” several people yelled. “He ain’t dead,” a woman cried.

Paramedics performed chest compressions on Carey 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.

Carey’s family prayed, hugged and cried, according to the Rev. Charlie Dates. “It was all in his hands. All in the Lord’s hands,” the grandmother said, according to Dates.

The teen 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.

“I think right now they’re just in shock,” Dates said of the family. “I would imagine in the days and weeks to come they would want more answers.”

Langford said 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 as they investigate the response.

“We know it was an extended period of time to get to the victim,” Langford said. “The time it took to get the victim off the street and under treatment was not acceptable by the Fire Department.”

Langford said as many as five 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.

He did not have specific details of what paramedics did when they first arrived. But Chicago police 1st Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio said Monday that he understood paramedics “looked at (Carey), believed him to be deceased, covered him with that sheet and moved on to another individual who was nearby who was also shot.”

A relative of Carey’s wondered whether he would have survived if he’d gotten prompt medical attention.

“He was so young,” said a cousin, Raneice Carey. "He just didn’t deserve what happened. I feel like he could’ve had a chance at surviving.”

Dates remembered Carey as “a good-looking, light-hearted, quiet, kind kid.” The boy was a frequent churchgoer and had worked at a senior citizens home for the past three summers.

When Dates received a text about the death from Carey’s mother Tuesday morning, he realized the teen would no longer be sitting in his usual spot Sunday morning in the Progressive Baptist Church sanctuary.

“I really didn’t believe it,” Dates said. “There’s no way I could see it coming.”

Dates remembered his last conversation with Carey. They stood in a parking lot for about 20 minutes as the teen talked about going to college, raising a family and providing for his mom.

Dates said he was told there was some tension at the party Monday morning that didn’t involve Carey but that had led to the shooting. A 22-year-old woman was also killed, and four men were injured.

“We have to figure out how these guns are getting into this city and in the hands of these boys,” Dates said. “A kid like Erin should not be dead today.”

Evanston Township High School Principal Marcus Campbell said Carey graduated from the high school in early June. Carey was “just a very pleasant person to have and talk to,” he said.

Copyright 2018 Chicago Tribune

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