Trending Topics

N.Y. city, AMR named in delayed response, wrongful death lawsuit

Family of a Buffalo man shot during a basketball game believe a 30-minute delay led to death

By Harold Mcneil
The Buffalo News

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Columbus E. Brooks Jr ., 18, lay bleeding from a gunshot wound on a sidewalk near Perkins Park when Buffalo firefighters and paramedics arrived to treat him around 9:30 p.m. July 5.

It was a speedy response, given that a 911 call about a man getting shot in the abdomen came in at approximately 9:27 p.m.

But by the time the ambulance departed the area for Erie County Medical Center, it was already after 10 p.m. — a 30-minute delay that family members believe cost Brooks his life. He was pronounced dead at 10:10 p.m., according to court papers.

About two dozen friends and relatives of Brooks gathered Thursday in the same park at Dupont Street and Woodlawn Avenue where Brooks was shot while playing basketball to assert that the city and ambulance service AMR didn’t do enough to save the young man’s life that night.

Athenia Cyrus, Brooks’ sister, earlier this month filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing the city and AMR of negligence through a delay in care and medical treatment for her brother.

“The call went out all over the airwaves, even to ECMC and other emergency hospital services. Reports show that ECMC cleared an operating room, and they were ready and waiting to treat him,” said attorney Mark A. Overall, who is representing Cyrus. “Despite arriving at approximately 9:30, they did not load him onto the gurney into the ambulance to transport him to ECMC until 10:03, 30 minutes later.”

A spokesman for the city was not available Thursday to comment. A representative for AMR responded in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Firefighters performed chest compressions at the scene, and AMR personnel twice gave Brooks epinephrine and inserted a tube into his trachea to get air inside his lungs, according to court papers.

“If they had immediately transported him to the hospital where doctors were ready and waiting to treat him, then the overwhelming likelihood is that Columbus would still be with us today. Now, we are not condemning all paramedics. We’re not condemning all fire department personnel, but in this situation, they took too long. In this situation, they did not act with the amount of care that they needed to act. And a family is suffering,” Overall said.

Trauma room staff would have been able to stabilize Brooks, stop the bleeding and close his wound if he had been brought there right away, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 13 in Erie County State Supreme Court.

No one has been arrested in connection with Brooks’ fatal shooting, Overall said. Crime Stoppers WNY has offered an award of up to $7,500 for information leading to an arrest in the killing.

Along with Brooks’ father and other family members, Cyrus stood in the frigid cold Thursday near a tree adorned with items to memorialize him.

“What can I say to make you value his life?” she said through tears. “To look at someone as human as they’re dying on the floor, what can I say to the Buffalo community that says we deserve to have a better living condition than what we live in every day?”

“Big change needs to happen. His life was worth saving,” she added.

Brooks aspired to be a parole officer and a volunteer firefighter, according to family.

“He wasn’t a gang banger. He was not a thug. He had a bright, bright future,” Overall said.

And if Columbus had been from an affluent white community, the outcome would likely have been different, he added.

“It would be great if he was the son of a university president in Williamsville, and it would have went down the same way, but we know that’s not the case,” Overall said. “Whether they meant to or not, Buffalo fire and American Medical Response assigned so little value to the life of Columbus Brooks that they left him on the hot July summer concrete for 30 minutes while he bled to death.”

Monica Miles, a University at Buffalo professor, and others who spoke at the rally said they regularly see disparities in the way residents in poor Black communities are treated.

“I would like to say this is one instance that will never happen again. However, the data shows us otherwise,” Miles said.

(c)2024 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Visit The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.